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Under the UAE Penal Code, called the Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021 On the Issuance of Crimes and Penalties Law, crimes are divided into three types. These are misdemeanours, felonies, and infractions.
Misdemeanour crimes are punishable by a jail sentence (one month to 3 years), a fine exceeding AED 10,000 and / or blood money “diya”.
A felony is a crime which is punishable by any of the following penalties: retaliation “qisas” punishment, death penalty, life imprisonment, or temporary imprisonment. Life imprisonment is understood to mean placing the convicted person in a penal institute or establishment for a life term. The period of temporary imprisonment generally means not less than 3 years and not exceeding 15 years, unless otherwise provided by law.
Embezzlement under the UAE Penal Code
In common language, embezzlement is understood to mean a crime in which the embezzler legally obtains assets and then fraudulently appropriates them. Under the UAE Penal Code, the law on embezzlement is covered under the provisions related to ‘breach of trust’.
Article 453 of the UAE Penal Code, which relates to ‘breach of trust’, states that any person who has received movable property like money, documents or any other kind on the basis of a deposit, lease, mortgage, loan for consumption or agency, and he embezzles them in order to inflict damage to the rightful owners, the crime would be treated as a misdemeanour. Such person will be punished by imprisonment of up to 3 years or fine.
A person would be treated as an “agent” of another if he is a co-owner of the property, or the intermeddler managing the property or who receives the asset to use it for a specific purpose for the owner’s benefit.
Article 453 is set out below.
“Any person who embezzles, 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 a common property, and 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.” Article 454 of the UAE Penal Code also states that, “any person who takes possession of lost property owned to another, with the intent to own it, or who knowingly takes possession of a property held by him by mistake or due to a force majeure, shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not exceeding two (2) years or a fine not less than AED twenty thousand (20,000).” Additionally, in accordance with Article 455 of the UAE Penal Code, “any person who embezzles or attempts to embezzle a movable property that he has mortgaged as a collateral for a debt in his liability or in the liability of another person, shall be liable to the penalty prescribed in the preceding Article. The same penalty shall be imposed against the owner appointed as a receiver on his own movable property under a judicial or administrative seizure, who embezzles any of the same.”
Embezzlement between Family
In accordance with article 10 of the Federal Law No. 35 of 1992 Concerning the Criminal Procedural Law (Criminal Procedural Law), no criminal action can be lodged in cases of breach of trust except upon a written or a verbal complaint of the victim or his legal representative, if the victim is a spouse of the perpetrator or one of his ascendants or descendants. However, the property which was embezzled should not be seized judicially or administratively or have been encumbered by a lien in favour of another person.
Once a judgment has been pronounced in a case of misdemeanour breach of trust, Article 84 of the UAE Penal Code entitles the public prosecution to stay the enforcement of sentence imposed, in case of conciliation of the victim with the convicted person or upon waiver of the right by the victim.