Risky Business for Indians in the UAE
With an estimated 2 million migrants, Indians form easily the largest expat population in the UAE. They are an integral part of the business community, the labor force, and the society as a whole. Living and working in the UAE offers Indian expats many opportunities to prosper, and this has made the Emirates a very popular destination. However, Indians face the same potential for legal problems as any other expat group. Indeed, because of their considerable presence, and the persistence of racial bias in the society, Indians may tend to be even more at risk than other expats.
Indians own the majority of SMEs in the UAE, most often with local partners, and, while these businesses can be highly profitable, we have seen all too often that doing business in the Emirates can also be incredibly risky. If for any reason the business suffers losses, if loans cannot be repaid, or if unscrupulous local partners exploit their access to company bank accounts for personal gain, the Indian owners will be held liable. One expat client told Detained in Dubai "Everything was going smoothly until our supplier deliberately bounced cheques that were for future deliveries and were not supposed to be presented yet”.
In 2015 alone, SME owners were burdened with over $1 billion in unpaid debts, and fled the country to avoid civil cases and criminal prosecution. The bulk of these debts may well not even be the fault of business owners, but due to the economic slump from low oil prices, or any number of other reasons. Nevertheless, in the UAE, they will be treated like criminals.
An unpaid UAE debt can quickly become a nightmare. Over the past several months, we have seen a 25% increase in cases involving Indian expats who have been sued, convicted of breach of trust, targeted with Interpol Red Notices, and even being sought for extradition to the Emirates, all for financial issues. At the very least, banks in the UAE will assign collection agencies to pursue unpaid debts worldwide. They will relentlessly harass debtors at home, at work, and even bother their family members; making life miserable, and often causing problems for them in the workplace. A Detained in Dubai client stated “"I would never have imagined that my business suffering due to economic conditions in the UAE would result in my being a wanted international fugitive - where else in the world does this happen?"
Fortunately, we have been able to intervene, negotiate, or otherwise resolve these cases, but it is important for Indian expats to be aware of the severe consequences stemming from debt-related matters in the UAE, so that they can be dealt with as soon as possible. "We encourage Indian expats living in, or traveling to, the Emirates to check whether or not there may be any cases against them before entering or exiting the country," says President and CEO of Detained in Dubai, Radha Stirling. "We can perform these checks, and deal with any legal issues before clients find themselves subject to unexpected detention at the airport".
Detained in Dubai is also preparing to launch a new initiative that will provide immediate and ongoing support to expats of all nationalities on a membership basis. Members will be given a mobile phone app they can use to notify our staff the moment any problem occurs, and we will dispatch a lawyer immediately to intervene on their behalf. Members will also benefit from our extensive network of local contacts to assist them in dealing with fines and other expenses; as well as Detained in Dubai's preparedness to mobilise media attention for their cases.
"We have been able to help several Indian expats with difficulties they faced in the UAE," Stirling says. "The Indian community is the biggest foreign population in the Emirates; they are the most active in the economy, and this can make them even more vulnerable to inadvertently falling afoul of the law if their businesses experience problems."