criminal law


February 23, 2019



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Dubai Legal Consultants will hereby provide you with a brief overview of the most common offence in the UAE, which is the offence of “Breach of Trust''. The Criminal Law of the UAE, Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021 On the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law governs fraud and breach of trust within the UAE. Breach of trust is a common scenario where a trusted employee or a business partner takes advantage of their position to the detriment of the employee or another partner.

Article 453 of the Criminal Law criminalizes breach of trust as follows:

"Any person who embezzles, or uses, or disperses money, documents, or any other movable property, to inflict damage to their rightful owners and when they are delivered to such person on the basis of a deposit, lease, mortgage, loan for consumption, or agency, shall be liable to a jail sentence or a fine.

In applying this provision, the co-owner in common property, the officious intermeddler managing the property of the concerned person, and the person who receives an asset to be used for a specific purpose to the benefit of its owner or another, shall be deemed as the agent."

It is understood that joint owners of the immovable property hold the joint property in trust and any violation of this provision would allow the innocent business partner or the employer to seek adequate justice from the criminal court.

However, the penalty by way of imprisonment or fine shall be at the discretion of the court depending upon the intensity of the offence and its categorization. In any case, breach of trust is also referred to as a misdemeanour for which a fine of a maximum of AED 10,000 shall be imposed along with imprisonment of a maximum term of 3 years.

Fraud & Breach of Trust

The term fraud is often confused with breach of trust and used interchangeably.

Although both terms depict the dishonesty of the accused, however, the law differs for both.

Article 455 of the Criminal Law states the circumstances which can be considered fraud, as follows: 

Any person who unlawfully appropriates for himself or another person movable property, or who obtains a benefit or document or a signature on the said document, or revocation or alteration of the document, by seeking fraudulent method or by false pretence or capacity to deceive the victim and induce him to surrender such document, shall be liable to a jail sentence or a fine. The same penalty shall be imposed against any person who disposes of a real estate or movable property, knowing that he is neither the owner nor has the right to dispose of the same, or that he has previously disposed of the same or concluded a contract on the same, and which may inflict damage to a third party. 

If the subject matter of the crime is money or bond for the State or any of the entities mentioned in Article 5, such matter shall be considered an aggravating circumstance.

Any attempt to commit the crime shall be punishable by a jail sentence for a period not exceeding two (2) years or a fine not exceeding AED twenty thousand (20,000). Upon any conviction against a recidivist with a jail sentence for one (1) year or more, the court may order surveillance measures for a period not exceeding two (2) years and not exceeding the term of the sentence."

New Technology New Punishment

In case the accused has used an electronic device to commit forgery, he can be convicted under UAE Cybercrime Law, i.e., Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 Concerning the Fight Against Rumours and Cybercrime. Article 14 of the Cybercrime Law states that any forgery of an electronic document of the government will be sentenced to provisional imprisonment and a fine of not less than AED 150,000 and not more than AED 750,000.

In case forgery is committed of documents of bodies other than those set out above, punishment of imprisonment and fine not less than AED 100,000 and not more than AED 300,000 will be imposed.

The Cybercrime Law further states that everyone who uses the forged electronic device, while knowing of its forgery will be sentenced to the same penalty established for the crime of forgery.

Additionally, the civil law of the UAE allows the victims to initiate civil proceedings to seek compensation for the damages incurred. The claimant can run both cases simultaneously or can register a criminal complaint and post receiving favourable judgment can proceed with the civil case to obtain adequate damages.

Related Links

  • Bail Procedure
  • Rules and Regulations Followed in Criminal Cases
  • In the UAE, Compensation Is Divided into Two Categories:Tort and Contractual Liability
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