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“Leave Dubai before you are jailed” - Coronavirus lockdown economic disaster risks gulf expats

Dubai expats face jail over lockdown economic crisis

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, founded in 2008 has warned foreign workers and investors in the UAE to exit before it’s too late. 2008 saw mass casualties, with debtors jailed, robbed of their assets or prevented from leaving the country. Worldwide lockdowns are expected to have an even greater impact. Stirling issued the following statement:

“The closure of world economies, travel and businesses this year has left countries suffering to the tune of trillions of dollars, with millions at the brink of starvation and mass job losses. Airlines have ground to a halt, laying off half or more of their staff and businesses have been forced to shut by government order. Make no mistake, millions will be either bankrupted, out of work or even homeless. The impact of the disastrous worldwide lockdowns will be felt for years after restrictions are lifted.

Businesses have sustained considerable losses during the lockdown and even once restrictions are lifted, are unlikely to return to normal turnover levels for some time, even years. There appears to be no government plan to make individuals feel safe but rather the opposite, to promote social distancing as a new way of life. Ultimately, if people continue to fear contracting coronavirus, businesses will continue to fail, individuals will continue to lose their jobs, their homes, their life savings; and that is if they’re fortunate enough not to be hungry or homeless.

Dubai Expo 2020 employees have been made redundant as the hope to attract foreign investment fades. Staff are being laid off without pay across all industries and expats will have no choice but to return to their native land. Most people who were in a flexible situation, have already left the UAE, while some have taken the risk that they will have a job after lockdown. Meanwhile, they are depleting their savings and many are borrowing and going into debt.

Foreigners who have invested in the UAE or partnered with locals, are likely to have their businesses and investment stolen as Emiratis try to make ends meet themselves. Foreigners are “fair game” in these instances, as we saw in 2008.

It is standard practice in the UAE to provide post dated cheques for monthly commitments or business agreements. Many of these cheques will bounce which is a criminal offence in Dubai with a penalty of up to three years per cheque, whether the cheque was written fraudulently or whether it was not honoured because of a government mandated lockdown that caused economic devastation.

In 2008, those who remained and tried to resolve their business issues or negotiate a new repayment scheme with banks, were jailed. There was no mercy. The ones who left quickly lost their homes, their cars and were chased internationally by debt collectors but, at least, they were not in jail or forbidden to leave the UAE as many still are. The only hope of resolving financial issues without going to jail, is to leave the country.

The economical impact of lockdowns worldwide is devastating enough, but add to that a system that allows for legal abuse, corruption, business theft and the criminalisation of debt, and you have an absolute disaster.

Now is the time that the crooks will come out. Banks will call in loans where it is profitable for them to do so. Business partners will withdraw funds from bank accounts without mutual agreement. Frivolous civil suits will ensue and extortion and threats will increase. This is only a snippet of what we saw in 2008 and the lockdown policies are far worse.

My advice now is what it was then. Leave Dubai before you are jailed and resolve any debts or business issues from the safety of abroad. Most of those who remained in the UAE in 2008 to try to resolve their debts or issues, were banned from leaving the UAE or jailed. Most lost all of their investments and savings. The safest solution is to leave the UAE and wait to see how it recovers.

If the UAE maintains its social distancing policies and if people are still frightened to contract the virus, there will be ongoing economic decline.”

Radha Stirling has represented numerous high profile individuals, particularly in the area of financial crime. Stirling is an expert in the field, speaking at major industry conferences like OffshoreAlert, advising enforcement authorities, foreign governments, financial advisors and private investors. Stirling also acts as an Expert Witness in multiple jurisdictions including the United States and United Kingdom. Stirling has been at the forefront of multi-jurisdictional litigations involving billions of dollars.

Radha Stirling interviewing with BBC World News.

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