Knowing that Dubai treats debt as a criminal rather than a civil matter, many expats who find themselves in unexpected debt trouble prefer to leave the country before they can be jailed.
UAE debt victims who make it to a safe country are regularly threatened by aggressive debt collection agencies. The threats take many forms, but one which strikes terror into many expats who are outside of Dubai, is being listed with Interpol.
So, can Interpol really be used to chase debtors?
Chasing debts is not part of Interpol’s mandate. However the UAE (coincidentally one of Interpol’s largest voluntary cash contributors, having donated $54 million last year alone) gets around this law by wrongfully reclassifying the debt as “fraud.”
Once the unfortunate debtor is listed in the UAE legal system as having committed fraud, Interpol can be enlisted to help locate and extradite them back to face Dubai “justice.”
Interpol has no obligation to investigate whether the charge is real. They just list the debtor with a Red Notice, and if the victim passes through an international border, they risk detention while the UAE is asked if they want to start extradition proceedings.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, explains: “This is not an automatic progression. We have had clients who owed millions were not subjected to a red notice. On the other hand, we have seen people arrested by SWAT teams while dining at cafes in Europe, who owed very small amounts. Some people were listed with Interpol straight away, some people were listed many years later. Still others never get listed at all. The covid induced economic downturn is likely to cause an increase in more aggressive tactics as exemplified by their actions following the 2008 crisis.
“The UAE banks don’t have a ‘playbook’. It is totally unpredictable as to when they will abuse Interpol in this manner.
“The best thing a UAE debt victim can do is seek help from an organisation like ourselves before any negative legal consequences can affect them.”