Dubai debt laws leave elderly British expat in limbo

Published:  23 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: Moving, UK, Dubai, UAE, Money, England
A homeless, debt-ridden British expat in Dubai is trapped in an impossible situation due to the emirate’s illogical laws.

Hardly a month goes by without yet another instance in which Dubai’s inflexible laws have trapped yet another British expat and resulted in imprisonment and deportation, but the latest story defies Western concepts of common sense more than most. Given that the plight of the expat involved was caused by his own lack of ability to cope with his own expectations of Dubai, the situation he’s now in gives him no chance of every getting his life back in order.

Jonathan Castle arrived in the UAE in 2002, taking on a position as a copywriter in an upscale advertising agency. After he’d settled, he was inundated by calls from local banks offering him loans and credit cards, several of which he accepted. It seems money management wasn’t one of his major skills as he soon fell behind on his monthly payments. Due to bank charges and UAE banks’ extortionate compound interest charges, his debt quickly ballooned from £20,240 to a massive £569,000. Unable to pay but willing to try, he scaled back his lifestyle every which way, selling his car, moving to a cheaper area and cutting back on food, but it wasn’t enough.

Debt collectors began calling, refusing to restructure the loans and becoming angry and abusive. At this point, his wife returned to the UK to avoid the misogynistic verbal abuse directed at her by the debt collectors, who were also calling and insulting the couple’s friends and colleagues. Castle continued to pay what he could as well as pressing for a restructure, but the debt collectors continued to harass him, his clients and his co-workers at his workplace. Nowadays, he sleeps on friends’ sofas and gets by on handouts.

Now 60 years old, Castle is in poor health and unable to leave Dubai as he has a police case brought against him by the bank which prevents him from working as well as from leaving the emirate until the entire debt is paid. It’s an illogical Catch 22 situation which may end in his being sent to prison for three years. Once the sentence ends, offenders get 30 days to pay the debt or they’re taken back to prison for an indefinite period.

Radha Stirling from Detained in Dubai told the media Castle’s in a desperate situation, adding similar cases involving expats are common due to Dubai’s outdated laws as regards debt. She believes Castle should be sent back to the UK in order to be able to work and pay off at least some of the outstanding debts. There’s no point, she said, in keeping him where he can’t work to help himself get straight.
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