UAE courts have stopped accepting 'security' cheques submitted by banks as a criminal tool against debt defaulters in line with new instructions by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the semi-official daily Alittihad reported on Monday.
The instructions had first benefited Emirati defaulters before courts were told last month to apply the same rule on expatriate debtors, the paper said.
Quoting Jassim Bu Aseeba, Director of the Judicial Inspection Division at the Ministry of Justice, the Arabic language paper said banks have been told that federal courts would no longer accept cheques presented to them by expatriates against a loan.
“All federal courts in the UAE have started to enforce the presidential instructions to stop accepting cheques presented by banks as criminal tools against expatriates as is the case with Emirati defaulters,” Bu Aseeba said.
“For this reason, the public prosecutor has released all those jailed because of those cheques. Many Emiratis were already released in October.”
The paper quoted another official as saying federal courts have stopped accepting all cheques presented to them by banks and all other financial firms.
“These cheques are no longer sufficient to put a defaulter in prison. They are not a criminal tool any more,” said Ali Khalfan Al Dahiri, director of the legal affairs department at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.
“The decision is in line with the President’s directives to achieve justice for all residents including Emiratis and expatriates. The decision was enforced last month and all federal courts now enforce the same rule on both Emiratis and expatriates. There is no discrimination in the enforcement of these rules,” he added.
The paper also quoted banking officials as confirming cheques are no longer considered as a criminal tool but that they can be used by banks to prove they are owed money by debtors.
“Banks are still presenting cheques given to them by debtors only as documents proving their rights, including the loan and interest,” one source said. “But these cheques are no longer enough to arrest defaulters and convict them.”
Legal adviser Dr Mustafa El-Sherbini said that this does not mean the rights of the creditor are compromised, but it entitles the creditor to go to the civil court to claim dues.
Banking sources told the paper that banks have also stopped using security cheques as a criminal tool, but continued to request they be submitted as part of documentation for loans.
The report quoted sources as saying that this ruling only covers security cheques and that cheques submitted towards monthly, quarterly and other fixed-term payments can be used to file a criminal case if they are not honoured.