DUBAI Jan 1 Newspapers printed contradictory
reports on Tuesday on whether the United Arab Emirates was
ending prison terms for foreign nationals living in the Gulf
Arab state who write bad cheques.
The UAE's tough penalties for defaulting on cheques were
relaxed for Emirati citizens in October after a royal decree,
but the threat of jail for the country's large expat population
In the UAE writing cheques that bounce is a criminal offence
instead of a civil one. Post-dated cheques are frequently used
as a guarantee by businesses and individuals for everything from
apartment rentals to multi-billion dollar deals.
Officials were not available to comment on Tuesday, which is
a national holiday.
"In line with the directives of Sheikh Khalifa... and in the
spirit of fairness and equality, the courts have stopped as of
last month accepting collateral cheques presented as a criminal
tool against expatriate debt defaulters," Ali Khalfan Al
Dhaheri, head of the legal affairs department at the Ministry of
Presidential Affairs was quoted saying by The National.
The paper also quoted judge Jassem Saif Buossaiba, head of
the judicial inspection department at the Justice Ministry, as
saying: "Federal public prosecutions in the country have,
indeed, released expatriate detainees as has been the case of
their Emirati counterparts who were freed last October."
However, Gulf News then quoted deputy minister of
Presidential Affairs Ahmad Jumaa Al Zaabi as denying the report,
saying: "There is no relaxation or debt waiver for expatriates".
In July a British businessman who had been jailed for nearly
three years in Dubai for writing bad cheques was released when
his conviction was overturned following a seven-week hunger
The UAE has no bankruptcy laws to protect debtors and many
have called for the decriminalisation of bounced cheques.
New legislation aimed at simplifying the process of
bankruptcy and allowing failing companies to restructure is
expected in 2013.