My father is facing a few court cases due to three bounced cheques dating back to 2008. He owned a business with his brother and left the UAE before the cheques bounced, which were worth approximately Dh42,000 ($11,436), Dh850,000 and Dh110,000 at the time.
My father's brother was managing the business when he returned home. There were cash flow problems and this resulted in the cheques bouncing in Dubai.
Before this incident, he had lived in the UAE for more than 20 years without any financial problems.
I want to bring my father back to the UAE. Is it possible to clear these cases and what would be the expected cost? AK, Dubai
Debt panellist 1: Steve Cronin, founder of DeadSimpleSaving.com
Your father’s case is going to be about the details. I am not a lawyer, so I am not going to make specific recommendations. You need to speak to a lawyer who has experience in dealing with cases such as this.
Speak to several lawyers until you find one you understand and trust. You do not want to put your father in a difficult situation, especially one that is difficult to reverse if matters deteriorate.
Here are some points to raise with your lawyer.
Bouncing a cheque has been decriminalised in the UAE since January 2022, with Federal Decree Law No. (14) of 2020 making amendments to Federal Law No (18) of 1993 concerning the Commercial Transaction Law.
In this case, your father did not write the cheques himself. The business may have had limited liability, although he would probably be jointly liable for any bounced cheques as a director.
It matters who the cheques were for – the “payee”. Was it to people or to companies or a bank? Do these companies still exist? Are the people still alive?
When the cheques bounced, did it cause significant problems for the payees? The people involved may be determined to pursue your father through the courts by any means necessary.
If the payees were banks, you may be charged interest on top of the amount owed.
People who bounce a cheque with a value of up to Dh50,000 are fined Dh2,000, while a cheque with a value of between Dh50,000 and Dh100,000 garners a Dh5,000 fine. The fine for bounced cheques with a value between Dh100,000 and Dh200,000 is Dh10,000.
Here, the Dh850,000 cheque is problematic, unless you are willing to throw large sums of money at the issue.
There are stricter penalties if anyone from the company tried to get the bank to stop the cheques or withdrew money from its bank accounts to stop it being used for the cheques.
The decriminalisation of bounced cheques also applies in retrospect, so any criminal cases and travel bans against your father will have been dropped. That does not prevent civil cases continuing or even being launched once your father returns.
You will need to contact the police and the court officers to make sure your father’s file has been cleared of criminal proceedings and to understand the extent of the fines.
Do not proceed unless you are absolutely sure what will happen. Given that absolute clarity is unlikely until your father arrives, I would think hard about whether he is better off staying back home.
Debt panellist 2: Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching
I strongly advise you to seek legal assistance before making any decision regarding bringing your father back to the UAE.
Issuing cheques without sufficient funds to support them does put your father in a serious legal situation. I would recommend he appoints a UAE lawyer to first confirm details of the status of the three cases against him.
If he has funds available to pay his debts, he can contact each of the creditors and discuss a repayment agreement.
If he can reach an agreement with the creditors, he may be able to have the legal cases removed and he can safely travel to the UAE.
I would recommend he confirms this with a lawyer before travelling.
A lawyer will be able to help your father come up with a repayment proposal to offer his creditors, ensure that it is legally enforceable and advise him on any steps you should take.
Watch: The debt cycle explained
Debt panellist 3: Khaled Al Hammadi, general manager of personal banking at Commercial Bank of Dubai
I understand the immense stress and challenges your father is currently facing with his court cases relating to the bounced cheques from 2008.
I am genuinely sorry to read about your father's situation, especially considering his long-standing presence in the UAE without any previous financial problems. The emotional toll this must be taking on him and your family must be significant.
Bringing your father back to the UAE and resolving these court cases requires careful consideration.
One aspect to consider when dealing with the court cases is how they are affected by the UAE statute of limitations.
I recommend that you consult a legal professional who specialises in UAE law to determine if the cases are still within the statute of limitations as specific time frames can vary based on the nature of the offence and the applicable laws.
Understanding the statute of limitations will help you assess the legal options available to your father.
If your father is willing to return to the UAE and settle the cases, it may be possible to negotiate with the parties involved or their representatives.
Maintaining open and honest communication with lenders or creditors is essential while working alongside a legal professional.
Explaining the underlying cash flow problems that occurred at that time can help them to gain a better understanding of the situation.
Expressing your father's willingness to resolve the matter and find a mutually agreeable solution can contribute to a positive outcome.
This process can be complex and emotionally challenging and having the support of legal professionals will enable your father to navigate these discussions more effectively.
Supporting your father throughout this process is crucial.
You should encourage your father to engage with legal professionals who can navigate the complexities of court cases and provide him with the necessary guidance and support.
Resolving these cases may involve addressing the outstanding debts, including the original amounts, accrued interest, legal fees and other related costs.
Your lawyer will provide a clear understanding of the potential financial implications and their expertise and understanding of the legal landscape will help your father make informed decisions and work towards a resolution.
Hopefully, this advice is useful to you and I hope you and your father are able to successfully find a solution to what I am sure is a challenging and stressful situation.
The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to firstname.lastname@example.org