Suggestion: Safi Quraishi feels something has to be done to differentiate cheque fraud from abuse of cheque law Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Xpress

Dubai: A Dubai-based British businessman who spent two-and-a-half years in jail for apparent bounced cheque offences, has called for a review of the interpretation of the UAE’s cheque law, claiming that its abuse is resulting in the miscarriage of justice for many.

Speaking to XPRESS after the Dubai Civil Court of Appeal cleared him of criminal allegations in a Dh7 million cheque case last week (see box), Safi Qurashi, 45, said: “It has taken three years to prove my innocence in three cases lodged against me in the criminal courts. Two cases were overturned in 2012 and now that the Court of Appeal has ruled in my favour in the third case, I can finally overturn this one as well.”

Dismissing references to him being the poster boy of bounced cheque cases in the UAE, the CEO of the diversified Q group of businesses said: “Something has to be done to differentiate cheque fraud from abuse of the cheque law [Article 401 of the Penal Code]. While I agree that deliberately bouncing a cheque should be a crime, the circumstances must also be looked at.”

Qurashi said in a country where post-dated cheques (PDCs) and security cheques are routinely issued by people while doing business or securing credit cards, mortgages and car loans, it is important to recognise that they are based on a contract or agreement of deliverables from the other party.

“But the (interpretation of) cheque law is one-sided as it does not consider whether the other party has fulfilled its terms of contract. The real criminals are the ones who sign these contracts, collect PDCs and then fail to honour the contracts. They then use the PDCs, if they bounce or are stopped, to open criminal cases and effectively blackmail or extort people into making payments.”

He said as things stand, a fraud victim is left with two choices — either to clear the cheque or stop it, which is not easy. “To stop a cheque, one has go to the police, get a prosecution report and submit it to the bank within 24 hours.

“Often you don’t know when the cheque comes in, and it may be physically impossible to stop it in a day. So you end up becoming a criminal and have to defend yourself. It doesn’t matter that the other party has committed a breach of contract. You can sue the other party in the civil court, but only after you have proved your innocence, by which time you could have served three years in prison.”

He said in some cases, unsuspecting employees find themselves negotiating as criminals after they lose their jobs and employers inform banks, following which the security cheques are held and bounced. “This is morally and ethically wrong. Where’s the bad faith?”


At the other extreme, he said: “There is nothing to stop someone from fleeing the country before the law catches up, and the bank is left holding the baby. So we need something in between, perhaps a simple travel ban or more time for people to pay. We need an intermediary negotiation point and a cooling off period. As a businessman, I would like to see the end of PDCs.”

Qurashi said the law should be interpreted to address such loopholes (see box). He said his intention is not to criticise the country or its laws, but to give constructive suggestions as a well-meaning guest in a host country. “I have been in Dubai for 10 years and I love it here. I just want the best for the country.”

After suffering heavy losses during his time in jail, Qurashi said he spent the last 18 months rebuilding his business which covers real estate brokerage, manufacture of armoured vehicles, security and facilities management. He said his time in jail took a heavy toll on his family. In fact, his two daughters and son, aged 15, 13 and seven, played an active role in their father’s release by launching a campaign “Justice for my dad”.

“No doubt they have been affected and they have matured quickly. Now, they just want normality. We all want to put the past behind us, and hope there will be a learning.”

Bounced cheque cases against Qurashi 
and how he proved his innocence

Cases 1 & 2: Bounced security cheque for Dh179 million. Qurashi claimed money had already been paid against this cheque by his company and that full documented proof was available in the form of bank statements and receipts and contracts. He said it was not considered during the criminal hearing and sentences totalling four years were passed.

Case 3: Stopped cheque which was a third payment to a partner for land. Qurashi claimed the partner defrauded him and left Dubai and that he used PDC as a measure for extortion.

He said evidence was not considered and no attempt was made by the courts to establish that he had committed fraud.

Qurashi filed civil cases in all three instances and fought them in the civil courts. Experts established by reviewing evidence that monies had either been paid or the complainer was not entitled to the monies. The judgments were then submitted to the Attorney General requesting that the criminal verdicts be re-considered in light of evidence.


Suggested Legal Changes

Safi Qurashi has called for a review of the interpretation of Article 401 of the UAE Penal Code and said the cheque law in general should be tweaked to ensure it is not abused.


Points to consider include: 
Mechanism to ensure actual act of bouncing a cheque is not a crime

Consideration of evidence and circumstances

Putting onus of proof on complainer to determine if he is entitled to the value of the cheque

Imposition of travel ban or allowing more time to pay

Establishment of an intermediary negotiation point


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