As if James Dua-Wiafi and Stanley Kundishora’s widely reported ordeal wasn’t sufficient warning, a THIRD Londoner has just fallen prey to a rental car agency demanding £30,000 in return for his passport. When will this end?
Nico and his friend rented a luxury Bentley for their fun in the sun. A day before their return to London life, things took a turn for the worse when Nico’s friend was driving the car alone and a bottle of water became jammed underneath the brakes, causing an accident. The car damage was mostly concentrated to the wheel, but Nico’s friend went to hospital for stitches. A report was filed with the police and it was deemed a “no fault” accident.
Nico expected to have to come up with the excess fees for the agency, but was stunned when the agency demanded AED 150,000 (approximately £30,000) for the return of his passport. “It’s unbelievable. The car agency said we’d have to pay rental car fees for the entire time it takes to fix the car and have it back in action again”, Nico told Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai who is representing him.
“After the stunning demand for £30,000 pounds, their friends began researching and came across the case of James and Stanley, who we also represented. It was a different rental car agency, but almost the same demand: Give us an extortionate amount of money or we will hold your passport and keep you hostage in our country.
“Nico’s girlfriend called. She hadn’t slept, beside herself with worry and his mother, who suffers from health problems, has been terribly stressed. They simply do not have 150,000 dirhams to give in to the demands of the car agency, and nor should they.
“This is the second time in a matter of weeks that we have seen British citizens targeted by rental car companies in Dubai, illegally seizing their passports, and essentially holding them ransom. Obviously, Nico is not responsible for paying rental costs for the car during its repair; rather than simply accepting for their costs to be covered, the company is trying to make a profit from a blameless accident that put someone in hospital, and threatening Nico with a potential civil case which could leave him stranded in the UAE indefinitely.
“When Nico approached the British Embassy for advice and assistance, they discouraged him from publicising his plight, despite the fact that James and Stanley were only freed to return to the UK last November precisely because of the media campaign we launched on their behalf. We understand that consular staff are communicating with the car agency, and we hope this outreach bears fruit, but it is irresponsible, in my view, for the embassy to warn citizens to keep quiet about injustices they face in the UAE. Frankly, this is something we have learned the embassy does routinely, and in our experience, it inevitably prolongs rather than helps resolve issues Brits endure with the Emirates’ legal system.”