Question: A member of my family was working for a company and he forwarded confidential information to a third party. He did not know that it was a crime and now he has been arrested. What should he expect as punishment?

Answer: This issue is governed by criminal law, specifically Article 379 of the UAE Penal Code, which states that anyone entrusted with a secret by virtue of his profession, trade, position or art and who discloses it in cases other than those lawfully permitted has committed a crime. The law outlines two different penalties; a prison sentence of not less than one year and/or a fine of not less than Dh20,000.

However, there are some arguments in defence of your family member that should be considered by his lawyer. The first point is that no crime exists unless the information that was shared was deemed to be ‘secret’ by the company. A second point to be considered by the courts is whether your relative had the requisite authority to share the information in question. Finally, some arguments that could be used in defence would be around the question of what benefit was derived from your relative’s disclosure; did he or anyone else profit from the information shared? If not, this strengthens the legal position.

Your relative’s lawyer has the right to call witnesses before the court that could attest to any of these arguments, given the criminal nature of proceedings.