It was reported recently that a British citizen had been detained in Italy pursuant to an INTERPOL Red Notice for failing to honour a security cheque signed when she took out a loan in the United Arab Emirates. Few people would expect what should be a civil law debt issue to lead to criminal proceedings and potentially even extradition but sadly this is another example of a continuing trend of abuse of the INTERPOL system.

It is a common practice for creditors in the U.A.E. and other Middle Eastern countries to deploy an aggressive approach in financial cases and report debtors who default on loan agreements to the authorities as a criminal complaint. This can result in a Red Notice being issued against the individual, which restricts their freedom to travel, damage their reputation and inevitably puts them at risk of detention and potential extradition.

It is often the case that financial institutions in the Middle East require an individual applying for a mortgage or a loan to provide them with an undated cheque for the full amount of the loan. The lending institution is obviously aware that the individual does not have the funds to honour this cheque when it is signed. However, should the individual miss a payment or default on the loan, the financial institution may seek to present the security cheque for payment. When this cheque inevitably bounces the institution can seek to launch criminal proceedings against the borrower. In cases where the borrower for whatever reason is not in the country, the authorities may request a Red Notice to locate the individual.

Using INTERPOL as a debt collection agency is a hostile and unnecessary tactic for resolving often very simple financial disputes. Unfortunately the stream of debt related Red Notices from UAE shows no sign of slowing.