UAE cyber crime law ensures ‘sextortionists’ face tough penalties

Victims of the crime could also land in trouble if the pictures or videos in questions show they are engaging in explicit or illegal acts.

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ABU DHABI // The UAE cyber crime law mean anyone caught blackmailing money out of “sextortion” victims will face heavy jail and financial penalties, while victims could also find themselves in hot water.

Faisal Alzarooni, a Dubai lawyer, said anyone caught blackmailing someone in this way will be punished under a law introduced in 2012.

“The UAE takes crimes committed on the internet very seriously. In 2012 Federal Decree no 5 was issued to specifically address cyber crime,” he said. “When it comes to issues of sextortion, where an individual is making a threat in return for money, Article 16 of Federal Decree no 5 of 2012 states that the extortioner ‘shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of two years at most and a fine not less than Dh250,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000, or either of these two penalties’.

“The punishment is harsher if the extortioner is asking the victim to commit a felony and/or engage in matters against the victim’s morals, instead of money, which can then result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.”

Those who use a VPN to commit criminal acts face even harsher punishments.

“Recently, there was an update to the cyber crime law that enforces additional punishments if a person is using a VPN network to commit a crime such as sextortion. They can now face a fine of Dh500,000 to Dh2 million,” said Mr Alzarooni. “Most cyber criminals use VPN to try to mask their identity and make it harder to be caught.

“Also, not only will the extortioner face legal problems but the victim may find themselves at the centre of a criminal investigation if the pictures or videos in question show that they are engaging in explicit or illegal acts.

“We’ve seen cases where the victim approaches our law firm with the objective of filing a criminal complaint against an extortioner and need the assistance of a lawyer to thread carefully as to avoid any fallback on them.”