Emirates NBD hires debt collectors to chase expat defaulters in the US, UK

UAE banks, including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, are attempting to recover money from those who absconded without repaying loans

Emirates NBD, Dubai's largest bank, is one of a number of local UAE lenders who have hired British and American debt collection agencies to chase expatriate defaulters who have absconded back to their home countries without settling their loan repayments.

“In response to a growing number of fleeing debtors, banks such as Emirates NBD, ADCB [Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank] and others have been increasing their recovery efforts by employing international debt collectors and enforcers,” Radha Stirling, a legal consultant specialising in the Middle East and founder of the London-based charity Detained in Dubai, told Arabian Business.

Stirling claimed that some of the third party agencies had begun using “intimidation and harassment” in order to recover the funds outstanding, including threats to issue Interpol notices against debtors, as well as harassment and threats of harm.

She advised expat debtors being targeted in the UK and US to do background checks on whether the collection agencies are authorised to use such tactics to recover debts and whether they are authorised to work on behalf of the banks they claim to be representing.

“Any third party claiming to represent a bank, should insist upon receiving confirmation of representation before entertaining any communication,” Stirling said. “In our experience, most debtors have acted in good faith and genuinely seek to reach a manageable resolution. Threats simply cause undue stress and do not change the situation and the debtor's ability to pay.”

While Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank declined to comment, an Emirates NBD official spokesperson issued the following statement to Arabian Business: “We would like to confirm that, like other banks, Emirates NBD works with debt collection agencies, within the legal rules and regulations of the jurisdiction where the bank uses these agencies”.

Debtors absconding is an unavoidable reality for all banks, not just those in the UAE, but in November a senior banking official said lenders in the emirate are working together to try to stem the number of small business owners fleeing the country with unpaid debt, a trend which had allegedly reached around AED5 billion ($1.4 billion) by that point.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have come under pressure amid a gradual drying up of liquidity in the banking system due to the weak oil price and slowing economic growth.

As a result, some business people have chosen to "skip" the country, leaving behind unpaid debt, a situation that bankers say has grown significantly from previous years.

"We want to take coordinated action on risk management," UAE Banks Federation chairman Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said.

"The idea is to allow the customer to pay for his debt and stay in town if they have a good intention. If they don't have a good intention, then it is no good (the bank) spending time (with them), it doesn't help."

Current bankruptcy rules are considered by lawyers to be outdated and largely untested, with few struggling companies using the legislation.

The cabinet approved a draft law in July 2015 but it still needs the support of the Federal National Council, the country's legislative body, and the president.

Al Mansouri also said the UAE would set up a credit guarantee scheme to help reduce the risk of default for potential lenders. He didn't elaborate on the specific details of the plan.

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Posted by: Justjacque

Not sure how relevant my comment is but advice would greatly be appreciated. I came across the UAE 's dilemma of absconding expat debtors and the chasing/enforcing where possible of repayment terms. My issue is my ex-husband absconded the UK to the UAE owing my daughter �15,000 in unpaid Child Support how possible would it be to have his debt recognised in the UAE's courts? Just asking

Posted by: Pankaj Shah

If I am not wrong it was the Islamic Banking arm of Emirates NBD who illegally cashed my friend Allan Paris's security cheque landing him in Jail. Please refer to the link:


They neither apologised nor compensated him for what they did. Unfortunately there is no provision in the laws to punish such irresponsible behaviour by banks. Why not?

The only reason people run away is the fear of going to jail. It is time bounced cheques below AED 100 - 150,000/- are de-criminalised and a tribunal set up to speedily dispose such cases.

Banks, outsource critical activities like vetting of credit card applications. These agents are only interested in earning their commission and will happily give credit cards to all and sundry. The result is default and people running away.

The UAE Banks association needs to do some deep introspection and change their ways rather than blaming the public !

Posted by: Garrett Robertson

Debt recovery professionals allows banks to retrieve debts. When it becomes clear that the debtor does not have any intention of returning the cash, the professionals swing into action and allow you to get your cash back through professionally negotiated resolutions. In lots of situations they organize meetings between the lenders and the debtors so that a line of communication is created that will help the company recover the money they loan. The debt collections in Dubai is now easier as hiring a debt recovery agency proves to followup the problems in retrieving money.

Posted by: Pankaj Shah

I am sorry but this is not always true. Three banks were threatening to send my employee to jail for default on his credit cards. First they gave him 7 cards without checking his ability to pay. When he defaulted they piled him with huge & unreasonable fines making matters worse.

The senior officers who could take a decision to settle refused my calls. It took me 45 days of rigorous efforts & pulling a lot of strings to eventually meet & negotiate a settlement with each of them.

My employee is making his payments regularly, but one of the banks has a serious flaw in keeping its records up to date and the debt collectors keep harassing us claiming huge unpaid instalments.

For one of my corporate accounts the SAME bank kept deducting huge fines from my balance due to THEM entering wrong data in my profile. I got my refund only after approaching a local newspaper and shaming them in public. But no apology was ever tendered.

UAE Banks Association- please take note

Posted by: sandra owen

I think the way these debt collection agencies are harrassing people in a very agressive way is absolutely appalling. I dont condone people running away, but banks still need to check their records and find out the situationj and brief these agencies correctly before setting on a path of bullying. If there was away that people could talk to their banks to reach an amicable situation without the fear of going to jail, there would be alot less defaulters.

Posted by: Victory Red

I think the banks should take a long look at their role here. During 2015 I was inundated with offers to increase my credit card balance, take personal loans, and and and.

Even today I got an offer to convert my club membership to an Easy Installment Plan over 48 months!

The banks certainly have no sympathy from me in this regard (not that I condone the creditors running away either).

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