British father of 3 Steven Williams from Wales, is stuck in Mallorca, Spain pending extradition proceedings to Qatar over an outstanding debt, despite having made consistent monthly payments. If Steven is sent to Qatar, he could face decades in prison.
Like the UAE, Qatar has been increasingly misusing Interpol as an instrument for debt collection, though the international policing organisation has no remit to intervene in private civil disputes.
Radha Stirling, a leading expert on legal issues in the Middle East, extradition and CEO of Detained in Dubai & Detained in Doha, said, “It is absolutely astonishing that Interpol has not responded to calls for checks and balances to be placed on member countries when they list someone on the database.” She said that Middle Eastern countries have long been abusing their membership with Interpol by misreporting debt under the category of fraud for the purpose of using the international organisation as their own personal debt collectors. “The threat of Interpol is used by Middle Eastern banks against customers to try to add pressure on them to settle their debts, without resorting to normal collection or bankruptcy procedures.”
Stirling notes that Interpol’s own financial dependence on Gulf funding may be a factor on the perpetuation of abuse. “The UAE and Qatar are the leading financial contributors to Interpol and it is no wonder that both of these countries are also the biggest abusers of their membership. Interpol seems unwilling to insist that these countries abide by the membership rules, presumably in case it affects their source of funding.”
Detained in Dubai offers debt negotiation services to clients grappling with financial issues in the UAE and elsewhere; “We have been helping victims of Interpol abuse for over a decade now but like Steven Williams, the effects of such abuse linger. Steven has experienced a traumatic arrest, accompanied by the fear of extradition and financial losses incurred from being forced to remain in Mallorca and hire legal representatives to respond to an Interpol notice issued by the International Bank of Qatar for a mere a £30,000 debt. All this despite the fact that he never missed the scheduled payments. But these banks often arbitrarily decide to increase the instalment amounts, and alter the interest rates on loans without explanation or notification.”
Although the United Kingdom and United States are well versed in this type of abuse, many other European countries are not as experienced and assume that an Interpol notice has merit. This had lead to a number of arrests throughout Europe; including one in Italy over a £15,000 credit card debt. Stirling says, “Interpol is seriously damaging its credibility in the international community with many countries choosing to ignore their fugitive alerts because frivolous cases are not being properly screened by the organisation”.
Stirling explains, “Debt is not a crime in Spain and ultimately, we expect that Mr Williams will be permitted to return to the United Kingdom but Interpol needs to be financially accountable for his losses as they are failing in their duty of care to protect and preserve human rights”.
Steven contacted Detained in Dubai when he was first detained in Mallorca, Stirling says, “I am in touch with Steven & his family who are stunned that a bank debt could lead to arrest and extradition proceedings in Europe where it is wholly contrary to the region’s principles of debt collection. The Spanish legal system can move quite slowly with extraditions but we are hopeful that Spain will grant authorisation to return to the UK to resolve the issue from his home country, given the obvious nature of the request. It’s a real atrocity that Qatar has wasted Spanish taxpayer money on an wrongful Interpol report. Not only is Williams a victim, but so is any Interpol member country who is forced to waste taxpayer money to collect the debts of a private bank. False Interpol reports cost European countries millions every year and if Interpol abuse is clear, the cooperating country should also be compensated”.