Members of the public who donate to unregistered charity and fundraising campaigns could be unwittingly funding terrorism – and committing a cybercrime carrying a three-year jail term, the UAE Attorney General warned.
Several cases have been referred to the Anti-Cyber Crimes Public Prosecution for investigation, said the Attorney General, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi.
Dr Al Shamsi said the Attorney General’s Federal Bureau of Investigation was monitoring cases of unregistered charities online and on social media.
Donating to unregistered campaigns places the person at risk of deception or of funding terrorist activities, he said, state news agency Wam reported.
“The phenomenon harms the UAE, whose humanitarian organisations set a good example of humanitarian and charitable work through legal channels,” Dr Al Shamsi said.
Under federal law it is illegal to call for, promote or collect donations online without first obtaining the proper permission and licensing from the correct authorities.
Anyone found breaking the law faces a prison term of up to three years or a fine of between Dh250,000 and Dh500,000.
According to Government.ae, the official online portal of the UAE Government, you can raise funds only after obtaining approval of General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments at the national level or Islamic Affairs & Charitable Activities Department (Iacad) in Dubai only.
Once approval has been obtained, the fundraising must be done in co-operation with licensed charity associations, such as Emirates Red Crescent.
In 2016, Scott Richards, an Australian-Briton, was arrested by Dubai Police for allegedly using Facebook to promote a US-registered charity supporting refugees in Afghanistan without first receiving permission from Iacad. The charges against him were later dropped.
In April it was announced that community groups and organisations must obtain permission for any voluntary work in Dubai. Volunteers must now carry official ID cards and keep records of all their activities.
The Community Development Authority must also be contacted before any voluntary work is undertaken.