Indian citizen Mary D’Souza has been in detention in the UAE for over a year and a half, arrested and detained for a bounced check she never wrote.
As those familiar with this series will be aware, lack of evidence does not necessarily preclude prosecution in the UAE. One of the latest people to find this out is Indian national Mary D’Souza, a middle-aged housewife who has been detained in a prison in Sharjah (one of the country’s seven emirates) since January 2018 for alleged crimes about which she had no knowledge.
D’Souza’s husband, Harold D’Souza, had been the manager of a company called Rabahi International. He had used her name to register the company because he was already employed elsewhere and was therefore restricted under UAE law from establishing a new business. As a result, Mary D’Souza’s name appears on Rabahi International’s business license, despite the fact that she held no position of authority in the organization. Harold D’Souza managed Rabahi in a 50-50 partnership with a Yemeni man, who, like Mary, had no active role in the company.
As so often in such cases, proceedings began innocuously enough. Harold D’Souza was approached by a man named Mike Baqi, director of Spielberger, regarding a joint venture with Investment firm QNAB. Baqi asked Rabahi to supply materials for an upcoming project in which Rabahi would also be required to manage the documentation of the process. At the end of these proceedings, Rabahi was required to return funds to a real estate company called AL Zubair. Al Zubair received approximately 45 million AED from QNAB through Rabahi. Harold D’Souza gave Al Zubair security checks which were to be exchanged for payment once he received them from QNAB through Mr Baqi.
Despite the commonplace nature of events up to that point, trouble began when Baqi failed to deliver the final payment of some 22 million AED. Harold D’Souza had given Al Zubair a blank check to cover the payment. When D’Souza did not receive the QNAB money from Baqi, and was therefore unable to submit payment to Al Zubair, the real estate company wrote the blank check out itself for over 70 million dirhams (almost 50 million dirhams more than owed) and attempted to cash it. Baqi appeared to have absconded with the money. Making matters even worse, because Mary was listed as owner of Rabahi, she was held liable and detained in early 2018 after returning from a trip to India. Harold would have been detained himself but had not yet returned from India. Mary remains detained awaiting trial in prison today.
Mary D’Souza was originally released on bail but was subsequently detained again when another case was brought against her by Sands International (SI), a firm run by a man named Sharoon Shamsuddi, who is close with top officials at Al Zubair. During the initial case, Shamsuddi had borne false witness, claiming that he had attended a meeting between Harold and Mary D’Souza and an Al Zubair executives. In fact, Mary never attended any such meetings.
Sands International pressed charges against D’Souza, claiming the firm was owed money by Rabahi for materials it had supplied to QNAB on Rabahi’s behalf. Mary D’Souza was detained once more and, in violation of her civil rights, was denied bail.
As Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, which is representing Mary, points out: “An expert report has definitively established that Mary has no connection with the case. The alleged culprit, Mike Baqi, has already been arrested, and there is no evidence to justify Mary’s continued detention. She is an elderly woman who is as much a victim in this case as the complainant, and the Public Prosecutor knows this.”
It is clear, according to Stirling, that Rabahi are the victims in the case, both of the actions of Mike Baqi and Al Zubair officials. Mary D’Souza in particular is completely innocent of any crime. As Sterling puts it: “Mary D’Souza is in prison over a check she didn’t write, for an amount she does not owe.”
The case of Mary D’Souza is yet another reminder of the dangers of working and investing in the UAE. According to Detained in Dubai, there are hundreds of cases of honest business practices being treated as criminal in the kingdom.
“Being named on a business license, particularly as a foreigner, can automatically make one criminally liable if anything goes wrong in the company, even if that person has no direct role in it.”
“Being named on a business license, particularly as a foreigner, can automatically make one criminally liable if anything goes wrong in the company; even if that person has no direct role in it; as is the case with Mary,” says Sterling.
Mary’s predicament further mars the image of the UAE. Her case sounds a clear warning to anyone planning to do business there and even to the relatives of those with such plans.