Dubai’s cheque law: Should it be changed?
A new court opened this week to deal specifically with cheque crime. Once again it has prompted calls for Dubai’s stringent cheque law to be changed.
August 24, 2010 12:11 by Samuel Potter
The debate is particularly timely; earlier this month the Central Bank released figures showing that the total number of bounced cheques in the UAE leapt by 8 percent in the first four months of this year. At the same time, the total value of the transactions involved dropped by 25 percent compared to 2009 – that means there are more defaulters on smaller amounts. According to Emirates 24-7, close to one in every 16 cheques is bad in the UAE. For how long can the Dubai criminal system cope with these increasing numbers of cases?
The result is an awful lot of people behind bars. Fair punishment, you might say, as they broke the law. But once imprisoned, what are the chances they will be able to repay their debt? It serves as a deterrent, yes, but it doesn’t serve anyone else. As we come to the (hopeful) end of the financial downturn, media is reporting on the large numbers of businessmen trapped in UAE prisons. Many have served their sentences, but are unable to repay their debts so remain in prison.
7Days reported in June that the non-profit group Detained in Dubai gets up to five people a day contacting them about debt woes in the emirate, with around 80 percent of the people they are currently helping battling bounced cheque or fraud charges. The organization told the paper of one case in which a company employee who was signing cheques on behalf of his business as per his job description was held personally responsible for the cash when they bounced, despite the cheques being from a corporate account. The management of the company disappeared.
The system’s glaring errors are also compounded by lenders themselves, who are a long way from perfect. Radha Stirling, Detained in Dubai’s founder,said, “We have dealt with people where a case has been filed and it’s obviously just a mistake. And as we see in every country around the world, banks do make mistakes.”
It seems those campaigning for a change to the law have a strong argument; a poor system compounded by mistakes is bad for everyone, including courts, lenders, and the accused.
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