Friday, April 2, 2010

Draconian debt laws in the UAE. A Tale of Warning - Part Three

It's been a busy week, and I have to assume you already read the obvious stuff: the Omani Tennis coach busted front page, Muscat Daily, as having served 3 years in a US prison as a sex offender after getting consensually involved with a girl under 16 (who is now here with him). The quoted use of the word "grooming" in the article was comedy gold too.

What else?

The vast sums being planned for more desalination and power.

The law suit between Shell Oman Marketing and alledgedly - Al Sirooj, a major francisee(? rumour 1), or against Shell and a Government Company like OOC or ORPC over imported bunkering fuel???? (rumour 2).

The strange and eerie case of the sudden disappearance of fantabulous local blogger Muscato. I do fear for his safety.

And, I hope you didn't miss this incredible post about women's rights in south Omsn and the Sultanate in general by the wonderful Dhofari Gucci. Recommended reading.


Anyhow, so here's something else.

Continued from Part Two.

In theory Oman has on the books a lot of UAE-similarly ill-defined wacky laws, where imprisonment is an option. But fortunately the ROP are generally blessed with common sense, and a naturally tendency to want things sorted out amicably without requiring too much paperwork for the courts.

And a big difference: Here in Oman, employers usually take liability for debt (or in the case of Omanis, the banks are asked to forgive the debt. More on that story soon.)

This situation in the UAE, fragmented police forces and varying degrees of application of very ill-defined laws, is creating an environment where expats are being blackmailed and extorted by officials in the UAE and in the banks. These officials use the threat of imprisonment without due cause as a weapon, and it's proving very profitable.

Just because you live safely in Oman doesn't mean you can ignore this problem. Anyone in the UAE who is in a debt trap situation might wanty to visit Debt Prison . Net , a great site that shows there can be a solution oif you're willing to work hard and take a risk.




Now, here's a very scary tale from an Oman based Expat who is also an ex-UAE resident from many years ago (she chooses to remain anonymous). The following is another true story:

Busted at the Border
Dear Dragon,
...
Roughly a year ago (2009) I went for one of many trips to Dubai, in my car, alone, to visit friends and do some shopping. My last visit prior to this had been in Dec -08 for the same reason.

I take off early in the morning, reach the border round about 10am, as usual show my passport (European) and expect the stamps and to off to my breakfast date, and further some shopping.

Well, instead I'm told I've I need to see the supervisor... Ok, I get into the portacabin and in a small "office" is a man with a computer telling me with a smile on his face that I'm black listed!!!

WHAT!!!??? How, where, when, WHAT!!!

[The Debt Saga Begins]
Apparently on his screen it says I owe "someone" 14 000 DHS![US$3500] My heart races, I'm totally surprised! I used to live in Dubai many years ago but as you stated in your post, to leave the country you have to clear your bank, which I did and got the papers and release letter accordingly. I've been back MANY times after leaving Dubai and never before incountered any problems.

I'm taken to Hatta police station, call my husband, in tears, trying to tell him about the situation though I really don't know what the actual deal is. Here at the station the amount "owed" is suddenly 24 000 Dhs [US$6000].

Now all I want is to get out of there and home so I offer to pay the money there and then and deal with the rest later but NO, not possible since the case has been taken to court!!!???

I'm taken to a big police station, by "jailbus", downtown in Dubai, sat infront of an officer who's suppose to take my statement. He tells me there is a case against me for fraud. I have, according to him, signed 2 cheques, one in 2004 and one in 2005.

I'm totally & utterly stunned! I show him my passport which proves that I was not in Dubai on the stated dates, which he agrees is "odd", but keeps pointing at his screen saying "it says here".

I'm upset beyond words, not knowing what to do; he's writing a statement, in Arabic, that he wants me to sign. Not knowing what it realy reads, for all I know I could be confessing to murder. He goes off, comes back and tells me I have 2 options - me thinking one of them is leaving my id etc stay at my friends house over night to come back in the morning and sort this mistake out. Well, his two options are either staying in the prison at the station or go to the main prison... imagine my dispare!!!

[Immediate Prisonment is the only option]
I'm then "escorted" by a rather large female police officer to the prison at the station. The metal door is massive, at least 20 cm thick! It slam behind me and infront of me are a desk with 4 more large female guards telling me to give them all my possessions incl. my mobile, the only line to the outside, my husband and freedom!

I'm allowed to use my Omani rials to buy a phone card. Then I'm told to walk through an opening in the wall... that's it... I'm scared, confused and feel like I'm in a living nightmare...

I walk through the opening into a massive rom or more like a warehouse with an open "yard" in the middle cells along the walls with bunkbeds, already occupied to the brim, a second floor overlooking the "yard". A girl, who I later found out had been there for 4 months for slapping her Emirati boyfriend, came up to me with an old mattress and an old blanket she told me "find yourself a corner on the floor" Honestly!!! I have never done anything against the law in my life, been hard working until I had children and this is indescribable!

I didn't sleep much, as you can imagine: the flourecent lights stay on 24/7, toilets are holes in the ground with no privacy - hence my decision not to eat or drink again until I get out. Food served 3 times a day; you can bribe the guards to bring you food from the outside coffeeshop but I was not interested in any of it.

The girls inside are just normal girls who have been either wrongly inprisoned, like myself, or actually comitted a "crime" such as fraud, unpaid debts, having a boyfriend(!). A sad sad thing is the asian girls in there still called me, as a westerner, "madam"!!

I cried my self through the night, listening to endless stories of different destinies: that normally if you are accused of fraud you'll have at least 1 month to wait for your first trial, where you are taken in front of a judge and you have to state if you are guilty or not, and that is then recorded. Then you go back to the prison to await a further date in court where the judge will decide if you are guilty or not, and a minimum for fraud is 3 months...

[The Debt Keeps Getting Bigger]
Things just gets worse and worse... I'm on one of the 2 payphones available in the hall every 3 hours to get an update of the situation and it turns out that when the husband of my friend and his emirati PRO go to the bank, the one claiming that I signed the cheques, the manager there tells them it is not 24 000 it is 77 000 Dhs!!!!! [US$20,000] BUT he can do us "a favor" and give some discount (!!!???) - 15,000 Dhs worth of discount - so it takes the sum to 62 000 Dhs...

[The Payoff]
Luckily my friend's husband has the money, pays the bank, gets the paper of no claim, gets to the court where a judge is in a good mood and decides they have better things to do than persue this case, sigs it off, CID sign their part 3 minutes to 2pm (when they close) and papers are taken to the police station.

@ 6pm one of the guards, comes in shouts my name and tells me you are free to go!!!!


[A Hollywood Ending]
Everyone in that prison stood up, clapped their hands and whistled... like a good old american movie!!

My nightmare was over, we were 6500 rials poorer but that was a later problem - I was out! It was a bittersweet feeling seeing all this well meaning individuals, some actually had boken the laws other just very unfortunate and without the friends and financial means I have... their faces still haunts me!

After this, when I'm back home in Oman, we inquired about legal help to have this matter brought up again in court, and maybe be able to get back our money. We were advised to "let it go" as it would cost us probably the same amount, if not more, to hire someone. Even then no one would ever admit to being wrong, so we would get nothing by doing so, just more trouble. Plus being scared to death of ever having to go through that again - let it go!

The most expensive trip to Dubai in my life, but I was home, with my family and safe - that is worth 6500 rials.

Hearing similar stories afterwards it seems that there might be some kind of "inside" job going on in the UAE banks. Someone see the accounts being "closed" and they have the information, wait a while, then use the account...

I don't know but it is worth mentioning for others that when and if you leave any country and you "close" your accounts - keep the papers saying so! No matter how long after you've left!

In my case after 8 years, and 5 moves later - with no papers - it was rather costly!


All I can say is OMG. Just be careful folks. The UAE is not like Oman.

It's getting more and more totally bat-shit insane in our brotherly neighbouring Emirati state-lets.

Muscat Confidential rates the UAE a big : AVOID IF POSSIBLE.

All rights reserved, copyright Muscat Confidential.

21 comments:

  1. I used to live in the UAE too. Is there any way to check to see if one is blacklisted before trying to enter the country? Could the ROP do a check? Does anyone know? Thanks.

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  2. Oh My God!! It's unbelievable!

    There's serious racism going on against Europeans I guess. I know of a few fellow Emaratis who always b**ch about expats in Dubai saying they're the ones "stealing" all our money while they don't even need it. I guess racism has gone to another level now.

    But these laws also apply to Omanis in the UAE. Here's a story from my own family: My aunt 1 (driver) and aunt 2 (passenger) - they're sisters - got into a car accident where no one got hurt except for aunt 2 (a minor thing in her leg). They drove off to the hospital and the doctor said everything's fine you guys can go home. My family insisted on keeping aunt 2 in the hospital for one night "just in case". Doctor agrees, and everyone goes home. About one hour later, the police (they somehow found out about the incident) knock on the doors and they handcuff aunt 1 saying she must remain in prison until aunt 2 is OK and back home!!! Aunt 1 goes to prison, while the family tries to get the doctor to allow aunt 2 out of the hospital! finally both aunts are finally home. 2 hours later the police come home AGAIN just to make sure that aunt 2 is actually home and not hidden in another hospital!!! RIDICULOUS!!

    So yeah, they do have a habit of jailing people for the stupidest reasons.

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  3. If you think Europeans are worse off then you havent been an Omani living and working out here. Like I said earlier everything is police matter and all police matter means jail in Dubai. They never check or listen to anyone or anything just arrest - I suppose common sense is missing in their mental chip.

    The other thing people just cause you are cleared in Dubai Courts it does not mean you are cleared at other ports of exists. An Omani arrested in Dubai and sent to Abu Dhabi jail was next day released - why -they arrested the wrong person cause no one bothered to check name on passport and photo. Anyway a month later trying to exit from Dubai Airport and get arrested again so calls his home and they bring down all the documents. He cant get released until his family go and get clearance from Dubai Auuthorities.

    Apparently they share same computer for wanted but once cleared it doesnt show on all the terminals in other Emirates and you have to do it manually yourself between Emirates.

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  4. One thing that struck me in the narrative was how the amount of money owed kept changing. Its almost as if the UAE bank was taking advantage of the situation, knowing that the accused person was helpless to fight it. That's scary.

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  5. and......... - does any one know Muscato? - whats happened - perhaps hes been jailed in Dubai (seriously) or worse - it would be good to know about a guy who blogs up to 3 times a day and then....

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  6. As one who has been to 10 Arabic countries and worked in Oman for 5 years I cannot understand why anyone would want to holiday in an Arabic country. OK...perhaps Egypt, see the pyramids then get the fuck out as quick as possible before you catch something. A holiday is a relaxing time one should not have to be on edge worrying if those seeking to be offended have gained a small victory! I want to relax, wear what I want hold hands and kiss in public without being concerned I'm being watched by a backward state.

    Dubai is a plastic imitation, Oman is expensive, the hotels are simply not worth it and what is there to see?

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  7. "Oman...and what is there to see?" DA- where did you spend your five years in Oman? watching videos on TV?

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  8. IMO the stories above are absolutely perverted.

    and Devils Ad. what you said about what is there to see? You would need more than 5 years there to be able to see all of Oman.

    bp.

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  9. All of a sudden , UAE is a bad place !?! hmmmm
    strange ...

    Anyhow, lets talk about racism , its funny how you people talk about it, We've been across hundreds if not thousands of stories (some by friends/family members) on how they were treated in the CIVILIZED western countries, Iam not saying am happy for what happend for these guys but before critizing UAE or Oman or any arab country, would take a minute to think how we suffer when we go to your countries, I had a couple of cases but I dont find them worth telling (am sure if it happend to one of MC western readers in Oman then it would surely be on the way to UD's inbox)


    UD, am not sure how good you know those people who send you e-mails telling you about thier dramatic expriences, but you know some people like making things up, am sorry but expats are not angels!

    DA, what would you think about a couple from lets say an african tribe (or asian,south american ... etc) who had never lived in a civilized world, thier freedom means they can have sex or masturbate in public, would it be okay to the authorties in NY, London, Mallorca ? HELL NO , its what you call it respecting the place's culture,history, religous beliefs, so until you guys accept EVERYTHING, then ask us to do the same , some people just dont understand and are very disrespectful for the place they live in like yourself , shameful !

    excuse my english ..

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  10. Abdullah, I'm being serious! No one will visit just for as pretty view. Dr. Karusi, appointed by HM has clearly stated Oman has a serious challenge in tourism as it has very poor accident and emergency hospitals and no recognised ambulance/paramedic set up. To be taken seriously as a tourist destination there are certain requirements and it is common knowledge Oman falls well short of these.

    I refer to my previous comments; a holiday should be a relaxing time, that is not 'fully' possible in an Arabic country. It's even more depressing during Ramadan, sad but factual!

    C'mon Abdullah, sell me Oman as holiday destination. Why should a family spend a week or two there?

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  11. Oman is so good that every Eid Omanis 'bugger' off to Thailand!

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  12. DA- why don't you asked some families who spent their holidays in Oman and thoroughly enjoyed their time why they came here. Also, there is such a thing as Adventure Tourism. I saw that in the early days of our Diving Tourism Company.

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  13. Abdullah, you miss the point. Yes families have come here and enjoyed, my own family included.. as a break staying here! But as a tourist destination it cannot rival others, certainly not for adventure tourism; I have quite a bit of experience in that being ex-special forces and as an accredited photographer, yes lots of pretty places as other countries have BUT its not a major player in the holiday stakes, no Arab country is!

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  14. How many UAE police does it take to push an Ex-Pat down the stairs?

    None - he slipped!!!

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  15. Abdullah - regarding the change in amounts has happened to quite a few people from time of being called to police station and by the time they reach the courts. Accordingly in some cases they have justified as interest and charges accrued. Its called skimming the helpless.

    A.A.A

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  16. "UD, am not sure how good you know those people who send you e-mails telling you about thier dramatic expriences, but you know some people like making things up, am sorry but expats are not angels!"

    Anonymous 3 April 11:19

    Let me tell you I wish I had that good of an imagination and didn't have to go through the story I sent UD but unfortunatley it all happened... Racisim anywhere in the world is not right regardless where you are from. I'm also not saying UAE is suddenly bad, I still go there! (Not as often and not alone!) Just a small warning to keep your bank statments when you close an account abroad so things like my experience doesn't have to happen to anyone else.

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  17. Oman has just come 2nd in a readers vote for best country by Wanderlust, a UK travel magazine, beating the likes of Australia and New Zealand. I think that speaks for itself in terms of Oman as a travel destination. Also, there are people who travel in ordre to experience other cultures , as well as to see things and "have a relaxing time". Other top travel destinations that happen to be Arab countries (besides Oman and Egypt)include Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

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  18. Devils Advocat,

    Please concentrate to tighten a little the gap between your legs instead of bullshitting here and there. Your preception of reality is a little off mark.

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  19. The Dagmar ElbowApril 8, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    I live in Oman and like it. But I agree on the whole with DA. As a tourist destination for westerners Oman has limited mileage. Not to say that it won't appeal to some and that it doesn't have some great attributes. But IMHO these will only take it so far. From Europe, Egypt, Sri Lanka or Thailand (to name just a handful) tick far more of the different culture, good weather in the Euro winter, great sites, tourist infrastructure, and value for money boxes than Oman can ever aspire to. Yes Oman is going down the ITC route, but however nice, most of these could be anywhere - they don't or can't use the location in Oman as the USP. Even HE Macki only foresees tourism contributing 3% of GDP by 2020 (c. 2% now) so this is even recognised at the official level.

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  20. my husband worked in dubai for less than 2 years..recession happened and he was one of those who had been laid off..he still have unpaid bank loans..now still looking for job..can he work in other GCC country?will he be in travel banned the whole GCC area if not yet settled with his dues...how can we get job to pay the banks if he will be banned to work to other country??your great ideas and help will be appreciated..im also worried with the situationsbut we cant really pay as of the moment

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