A Malaysian national has been held in the UAE without charge for over half a year for no other reason than being paid for his work. Richard Lau was arrested last April, along with several others, based on accusations from an Emirati businessman that Richard’s salary and commissions constitute embezzlement from his company.
Richard Lau and father, before his arrest.
Although there is no evidence of wrongdoing, Richard’s detention continues to be extended every two weeks as the Public Prosecutor requests more time to investigate. Every other accused party has been released, while Richard languishes in jail. The Emirati Walid Jumaa Abu Shabas, accused eight people, including his partners, of stealing funds from the Ras Al Khaimah subsidiary of the Malaysian marine transport company Shin Yang, pointing to the large amounts of money paid by Shin Yang into the accounts of Richard and the other accused persons. The money, however, was not paid secretly and was in fact their wages. Remuneration for their work for companies set up by the Malaysian owners of Shin Yang.
Richard was instructed by Shin Yang executive director Kenny Ling, to carry out work for these affiliated companies and to be paid additional salary for this work and receive commissions. It appears that Abu Shabas was unaware of this agreement and has misconstrued Lau’s earned salary and commissions as embezzlement. Richard has done nothing wrong except get paid for his work.
Richards father says in a statement, "These few months have been an absolute nightmare for us; we feel threatened and unsure about our son's safety and future. I don't understand how the UAE can just arrest my son without a warrant based on a mere complaint by a local and then detain him for months without a charge, while they take their time with investigations. Some days I cannot believe that this is really happening; that this sort of practice can still exist in today's world in a country that is so modern and advanced in other ways." In Ras Al Khaimah, as throughout the UAE, accusations are sufficient to justify arrest and detention; particularly when they are levelled by a local.
Abu Shabas is a full partner in Shin Yang, but has smaller holdings in the affiliated companies, thus his share of Shin Yang’s profits has declined as the company increased its outsourcing to its affiliates; but reducing a local’s profit share should not be treated as a crime. Outsourcing to separate companies is common both in the UAE and abroad.
Richard’s distraught sister contacted Detained in Dubai about his ongoing detention, “The UAE detained my brother for over 6 months without a warrant or charge. This preposterous manner of arrest and detention is medieval and goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. There appears to be no due process in the UAE when it comes to foreigners.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, says, “We have seen this before in the UAE where prosecutors endlessly renew temporary detention on the pretext of investigation. The law allows indefinite detention for crimes relating to national security, but Richard’s case is a financial dispute in which there was no illegal activity; there is no justification for denying bail while authorities investigate the accusations. Richard should be released immediately, just as the co-accused parties were released. It is Richard’s right to be promptly informed of the charges against him once he is arrested; ‘prompt’ expired seven months ago.”
The emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is striving to draw foreign investors and business people from around the world, seeking to compete with Dubai as both a hub for tourism and investment. Stirling says that the treatment of Richard Lau is likely to dissuade foreigners from visiting, much less investing in Ras Al Khaimah. “In recent weeks we have already seen deplorable treatment of Scottish tourist Billy Barclay in Ras Al Khaimah, which did considerable damage to the emirate’s image among tourists; and now this indefinite detention without charge for Richard Lau, a professional working for a foreign firm. If Ras Al Khaimah wants to improve its standing and welcome people to the emirate either for holiday or for business, these kinds of violations of due process and human rights must be addressed. No one will be inclined to visit or invest in an environment where they do not even feel safe”.