The case of British National, Peter Margetts, sentenced to over 40 years imprisonment for BOUNCED CH
Peter Margetts was sentenced to over 40 years in prison for post dated cheques that he had written to a group of pilot investors. While his partners fled during the economic downturn, Peter remained to try to resolve the financial issues and request an extension from the investors. Unfortunately for Peter, the pilots did not agree to any new terms and subsequently presented the cheques to their banks and opened police cases when they bounced.
The police cases were lodged at a number of different police stations to ensure that they would be treated separately and heard at different courts. This ensured that the sentences would not be combined and Peter received individual sentences that compounded into the sentence he is currently serving.
The Financial Times reported that Peter tried to have his sentenced combined but the Court of Cassation denied his request:
We attempted to reach an agreement with the group of pilots on behalf of Mr Margetts, whereby he could at least remain under house arrest in the UAE, rather than in prison. Peter told us “I can’t do anything to help them while I am in prison. If they agreed to let me out, I could at least work to get them their money. I don’t even mind if they put security outside my house. I didn’t flee then and I am not running now. They seem to think I have money offshore but if I did, they’d have it. No money is worth being in here for”.
Radha Stirling, Director of Detained in Dubai said in a statement “It is a failing in the legal process that these cases were not combined and heard by the same Judge. Peter had to attend more hearings than one can imagine. The transfer process from prison to Court is an extremely unpleasant process and this was completely avoidable. The total length of this sentence should cause outrage to the UAE government. This man has been sentenced to substantially more time in prison over bounced cheques than others have received for serious violent crime.”
While the pilot investor group maintains that Peter has acted fraudulently, he refutes this claim and wishes that he had a chance in Court to prove his innocence. Stirling continues “It is easier in the UAE to open a police complaint for bounced cheques rather than actual fraud. There is no defence to bounced cheques and so the claimant is incentivised to apply the cheque approach, rather than a fraud case. The accused is never given an opportunity to defend himself or prove his innocence. This is a considerable judicial failing in any modern country. Custodial sentences should never be issued for a bounced cheque. All facts of the case and situation should be carefully considered by the courts.”
If a court ruled that Margetts was innocent of fraud and was actually victimised himself by his partners, it would mean that he has been sentenced to forty years in prison for crimes he is innocent of.
The UAE´s legal climate in relation to bounced cheques and the fast tracked process to report financial crimes is a concern for entrepreneurs and professionals but the government doesn’t seem inclined to put an end to it. Convicted parties are a huge source of income for the government with sentences often being a fine of 5-10% of the cheque amount. The fine is paid to the government and not the individual to whom it is owed.
What is clear though, is that where financial troubles can be foreseen, expat professionals are now more likely to abandon ship and leave the country. The UAE must urgently review its financial crime laws if it is ever to create an environment of trust and confidence. If more legal protection were offered, foreigners would see the UAE with a longer term attitude, rather than a “get in, make money and get out before the law catches you.
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