The UAE has come under widespread criticism in recent years for “treating Interpol as their personal debt collectors.” Whether it is a credit card debt, a personal loan or a bounced cheque in relation to a commercial or business transaction, Interpol is seen as a recovery tool by banks, government and the private sector. Detained in Dubai had the pleasure of announcing the removal of two Interpol notices for clients last week. In both cases, the reports should never have been issued in the first place and are the result of the systematic abuse of Interpol’s database by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.
Unlike in the Western world, UAE law regards debt as a criminal matter. If a customer is late with payments or can’t pay, they go to jail. If a company’s cheque bounces, the individual who signs it will be subject to criminal prosecution, regardless of the circumstances. Individuals facing such circumstances in the UAE are (rightly) advised by their lawyers to leave the country to avoid imprisonment. Although they have acted in good faith, they are left with no choice.
Following their departure, they will be convicted in absentia over what, anyone outside of the Middle Eastern would see, as a civil matter. Once a conviction in absentia is secured, the UAE can report the “crime” to Interpol by branding it as “fraud”. If a member country like the UAE reports a debt victim for fraud and issues a Red Notice, Interpol duly accepts it without assessing the merits of the case.Every week, Detained in Dubai receives multiple requests seeking to find out whether they are listed. Clients of many nationalities who have visited, lived in or had business dealings within the UAE. If the checks return positive and they find they are listed, formal submissions are made to Interpol to appeal the report.
Detained in Dubai’s clients are not international fugitives and like many others, have found themselves listed for very small financial matters such as a minor debt, a mortgage default or a bounced “security cheque”. The Red Notices are instigated by desperate debt collection agencies working on behalf of UAE banks such as Emirates NBD and Mashreq.
Once listed, every time the victim of “Interpol Abuse” tries to pass through an international border, authorities are required to detain the person while they contact the UAE and ask if they want to begin extradition proceedings. If extradition were successful, the debtor could be sent to the UAE to face a lengthy jail sentence, in prisons notorious for human rights violations and torture.
Many times, when the UAE is asked if they want to extradite the debtor, they decline, because they know that many countries will not allow the extradition. The victim, however, remains listed on the Interpol database. The UAE hopes that the person will one day stray into a country that will agree to the extradition.
In 2015, after a storm of international criticism of the UAE’s misuse of Interpol for debt collection, the UAE agreed to restrict Interpol use to genuine crimes and to stop chasing debtors with illegal Red Notices. However, Detained In Dubai, has actually seen an increase in the years since this announcement. The UAE has more active Red Notices than any other member country, so chose to cease publishing notices on Interpol’s website when this fact became public knowledge.
Radha Stirling CEO of Detained in Dubai and Interpol and Extradition Specialist, said “Many of our clients come to us with stories of harassment by debt collection agencies. Many report death threats and another client’s wife and child were threatened with rape by agencies rifling through private social media channels such as Facebook and Linkedin.
These are just a few of the tactics they feel are acceptable to employ. The Interpol Red Notice is another tool in their offensive and, often illegal, arsenal of weaponry.
When listed, International travel becomes unsafe and the collateral damage can also be severe; closure of bank accounts, loss of professional reputation, suspension of professional practicing licences, damage to personal reputation and, in some cases, a criminal investigation will ensue.”
Stirling continued, “Within the UK, Interpol Red Notices have often led to costly and unnecessary extradition hearings, all of which have failed because the UK will not extradite to any country with a known Human Rights abuse issue. Multiple hearings are thrown out of court every year, at great expense to the UK taxpayer.
The best advice we can provide ‘at risk’ clients is to seek professional advice to create a plan of action to prevent matters escalating to Interpol in the first place.”
The UAE is one of Interpol’s largest financial supporters, in May 2017, the UAE pledged 50 million Euros to Interpol projects designed to combat terrorism and global crime, but are now being abused on behalf of large international banking corporations.
Extreme stories such as that of Pancho Campo, who has finally been removed from the Interpol Database after a 15 year struggle, are not unusual.
Pancho was held hostage over bounced cheques and was finally exonerated of the falsified criminal charges.During the 15 years, Pancho has been unable to travel and has suffered extensive damage to his businesses, reputation and personal life with even his children suffering harassment. Mr Campo has released a video thanking everyone who has helped him:
Pancho has released a statement: "it gives me great pleasure to inform you that on the past 5th of February  I received a detailed report from Interpol headquarters. This report proves my absolute innocence and it exonerates me from any accusation. But most importantly, this report gets rid of the Red Notice I was issued more than 15 years ago. These 15 years have resulted in tremendous stress and damage for my family, my collaborators and myself. From the psychological point of view, economical point of view and reputation. I come forward for two reasons. Number 1, to preserve my reputation. But most importantly, to prevent other citizens from the abuses, judicial abuses of countries like the United Arab Emirates. This report has also found guilty this country, the United Arab Emirates of breaching 5 articles of the Interpol legislation and the international law. I want to thank, deeply, from my heart, all of you who after all these years have believed in me. This report gives you the reason. You were right in supporting me. Thank you so much."
Other clients quote: “I am so happy to be free of the Interpol lists. My life had become very difficult, travel impossible and my business has suffered due to restrictions placed on my bank accounts. What is worse and can never be undone is the slur on my reputation caused by these fake claims against me.”
Notes: Radha Stirling manages full extradition proceedings, provides expert testimony in extradition proceedings, civil proceedings, arbitrations and regulatory hearings internationally. She has ten years experience in successfully removing Interpol Red Notices and has provided expert evidence in the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada and the United States.