Malaysian citizen Richard Lau has been detained in the UAE for almost a year for receiving his wages. He has been detained pending investigation, with his detention regularly being renewed as the Ras Al Khaimah authorities have not been able to find or produce evidence to charge him with any crime. He is paradoxically being detained precisely because there is not evidence to justify his detention. In the UAE, a person under investigation should be held for no more than three weeks before being automatically released, but Richard, like numerous others, continues in detention as though he has been convicted.
Just this year, British man Nico Consari, was finally released from detention after a year and a half in prison. He was never charged and never convicted. Richard’s situation is not unusual but represents a clear breach of human rights conventions to which the UAE is a signatory. Richard does not present a risk to society and has not indicated to be a “flight risk” and should by all legal rights, have been released on bail 7 months ago.
Richard has been accused by an Emirati partner in the company that employed him of embezzlement, but no evidence has been found to support the claim. Rather, the money he is accused of embezzling constituted his earned salary and commissions as per an agreement with the company’s owner. However, such allegations of embezzlement are commonly made by local partners, usually for the purpose of recovering as much money as possible from foreign investors and executives. With the threat of imprisonment, most foreigners will allow themselves to be extorted and walk away from the UAE seeing it as an “unfortunate waste of time and money”. If the accused does not have the money being sought, the accuser is still unlikely to drop the allegations and the victim can end up serving custodial time.
The judicial system is swayed in favour of Emiratis and it is difficult for foreigners to achieve justice through usual legal channels. In fact, Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, recently provided evidence in a US civil suit against the ruler of Ras Al Khaimah. The claimant was aware that he could not achieve justice in the UAE but was fortunately able to utilise the jurisdiction of the USA where he could at least receive a fair hearing.
Radha Stirling said in a statement “We are currently representing a French national and executive Mr Reda Boulahdid who is also facing years in Ras Al Khaimah as a result of false and vindictive allegations”. Mr. Boulahdid told Detained in Dubai the extortion started when customs authorities requested he pay 20% of his business income to them for no reason. When he didn’t pay, a series of false allegations were made against him and his car production factory was closed. These actions led to his financial insolvency and ultimately, bounced cheques that warrant prison sentences.
Stirling continued “We have been in close contact with the Lau family throughout their ordeal. They are all extremely worried and want him home for Chinese New Year, a very important time for their family.
The Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs has personally responded to the family and assured them that they are looking after Mr Lau’s welfare and will do what they can to secure his prompt release. Meanwhile, we have brought his wrongful detention to the attention of investment and business groups, some of which are sponsored by the Ras Al Khaimah government themselves. Professionals and investors are becoming aware that the free trade zone established in the Emirate may come with a risk to personal freedom, extortion attempts, corruption and a legal system that provides no safety to foreign professionals and investors. We have been fielding calls all of December from concerned individuals and investment bodies who are reconsidering their options and investment strategies. If the UAE wishes to continue to attract foreign investment, they need to protect the rights of individuals and seriously invest in their own legal infrastructure that even in 2017, remains archaic”.