UAE cracks down on counterfeiting, fraud

The United Arab Emirates has begun a focused campaign to tackle commercial fraud activities on multiple fronts, including the counterfeiting of goods and the theft of intellectual property.

Zawya and other sources have announced that UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has replaced the commercial fraud law with one that imposes bigger penalties on counterfeiters, with the possibility of two years in jail and fines of up to approximately $270,000.

The law, which covers goods and services, also establishes a federal committee to close down fraudulent businesses and prosecute their leadership.

Other penalties might include the revocation of trade licenses, and an excerpt from the law indicates that the UAE will look to prosecute parties that attempt to deceive buyers of human or animal feed, medicines, crops or other products.

Officials are hoping that the combination of penalties and public exposure will cut into the sizable trade in counterfeit goods that exists in places like Dubai, a bustling port city.

In some cases, the government will seek to confiscate or even destroy products that are deceptively labeled or sold.

For more on the new law, the Gulf News Journal spoke with Amman Amonette, the imam at the Virginia Islamic Center in Richmond, Virginia, who has spent time in the Persian Gulf.

“When I was living in the gulf area, counterfeit goods were a huge problem,” Amonette said, adding that the enormous volume of imports that reaches the Emirates means a large potential for counterfeiting – and the market is a broad one.

“Almost any popular products can be imitated,” Amonette said.

He said that that mislabeling is a potentially dangerous and deceptive practice.

“We can't really have free and fair trade unless we have all of the information (about a product).”

Counterfeiting, Amonette said, is also antithetical to the principles of Sharia law. But while deception is against Islamic principles, free trade is encouraged in most gulf nations, which can lead to an atmosphere where counterfeit and other kinds of fraud thrive without proper oversight, he said.

“It takes extra vigilance,” Amonette said.

Khalifa is reportedly aiming the same kind of scrutiny at the public sector. A new law on Abu Dhabi government finances is described this way in the Dubai Informer:

“The law seeks to set a comprehensive regulatory framework for public financial resources to guarantee that government work is conducted within institutional frameworks with a high level of transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.”

According to reports in the Dubai Informer, Gulf News and elsewhere, the law will cover issues such as treasury management, the regulation of bank accounts and tax handling.