Fines for bounced cheques up to Dh200,000 in Dubai

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - SALAM AL AMIR Fur­ther re­port, page 9

Peo­ple in Dubai who bounce cheques up to the value of Dh200,000 will no longer face the prospect of prison.

The order comes into ef­fect next month and the de­ci­sion has been cir­cu­lated to prose­cu­tors. The re­moval of the threat of prison for peo­ple who fail to hon­our their cheques is one of eight of­fences that now can be set­tled with fines in­stead of jail sen­tences.

The de­ci­sion will re­lieve pres­sure on the emi­rate’s courts, al­low­ing for more time to be spent on cases in­volv­ing more se­ri­ous crimes such as money laun­der­ing or as­sault, said Ay­man Ab­dul Hakam, head of Dubai’s One Day Court, which was set up this year to han­dle mi­nor cases.

The num­ber of crim­i­nal cases han­dled by Dubai’s courts is ex­pected to drop sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter a de­ci­sion to down­grade a num­ber of mi­nor of­fences to mis­de­meanours to be dealt with by a fine.

From bounc­ing cheques and fail­ing to pay rent, to send­ing in­sults in per­son or by phone, many of­fend­ers will no longer be put through the court sys­tem.

The order will come into ef­fect next month af­ter be­ing an­nounced by Dubai At­tor­ney Gen­eral Es­sam Al Hu­maidan.

The de­ci­sion, which was dis­trib­uted to chief prose­cu­tors last week, stated that eight of­fences can be set­tled out­side court.

This in­cludes cases that in­volve bounc­ing cheques for amounts not ex­ceed­ing Dh200,000, the fail­ure to pay fees or costs of up to Dh50,000 and is­su­ing in­sults in front of oth­ers, or in re­la­tion to fam­ily hon­our.

The change also means that any­one who has at­tempted sui­cide, and failed, would be fined and not pros­e­cuted in court. Ay­man Ab­dul Hakam, head of Dubai’s One Day Court, which was set up this year to han­dle mi­nor cases, ex­pects that far fewer peo­ple will go to court and need to pay to hire a lawyer.

He es­ti­mated that 35 to 45 per cent of cheque-re­lated cases will be dropped in the first month.

“This means that judges will have more time to fo­cus on other ma­jor cases such as money laun­der­ing, as­sault, and cy­ber crime,” the judge said.

“It is ev­i­dent that the UAE law is de­vel­op­ing, and this de­vel­op­ment is the re­sult of great ef­forts made to iden­tify any re­quired changes to ex­ist­ing laws, in order to bet­ter serve the com­mu­nity and fur­ther po­si­tion the UAE among the most ad­vanced coun­tries,” the judge said.

Ear­lier this year, Emi­rates NBD chief ex­ec­u­tive Shayne Nel­son sparked a re­newed de­bate over the mat­ter of bounced cheques when he told a Dubai ra­dio sta­tion that he did not be­lieve it was right that the ac­tion could land some­one in jail.

But he drew a clear distinc­tion be­tween ac­count hold­ers who could end up be­ing pun­ished for mak­ing a gen­uine mis­take, and fraud­sters who use dud cheques on pur­pose to rip peo­ple off.

“For fraud, yes, of course,” he said.

“But some­times peo­ple get in trouble not due to their own fault,” he told Dubai Eye.

“You see SMEs (small and medium en­ter­prises) get into trouble be­cause some­one hasn’t paid them.

“I think we as a so­ci­ety have to be more bal­anced on this is­sue.”

This means that judges will have more time to fo­cus on other ma­jor cases such as money laun­der­ing JUDGE AY­MAN AB­DUL HAKAM Head of Dubai’s One Day Court

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