Illegal charity fundraising can get you jail, up to Dh500,000 fine in UAE
Individuals or group of individuals who wish to volunteer themselves in any charitable initiative should ensure obtaining prior approvals.
Q-My friend lost his job and is struggling to make ends meet. He has some unpaid credit card bills, and may be referred to the police as informed to him by his bank. Therefore, to support my friend, I wish to raise some money for him. However, I understand that it is illegal to do so in the UAE. Can you please clarify the laws around this?
It is illegal to raise money from the public in the UAE either for donations or charity without seeking prior approval from the competent authorities viz. General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE) at the federal level or Islamic Affairs & Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) in the emirate of Dubai.
In UAE, seeking public donations without relevant permission from the authorities concerned via information technology devices is a criminal offence in accordance with Article No. 27 of Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on combating cybercrimes, which states: ".(such act) shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine not less than Dh200,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000 or either of these two penalties whoever establishes, manages or runs a website or publishes information on the computer network or any information technology means to call or promote for the collection of donations without a licence accredited by the competent authority."
Further, if you are a resident in Dubai then you are also regulated by Decree No. 9 of 2015 regulating the raising of funds for donations in the emirate of Dubai (the 'Donation Law of Dubai'). The law regulates the work of social service providers and prohibits collection of donations or advertising of fund-raising campaigns through all forms of media without obtaining prior written approval from the IACAD. Individuals or group of individuals who wish to volunteer themselves in any charitable initiative should ensure obtaining prior approvals and consent from IACAD in Dubai.
Article 3(a) of the Donation Law of Dubai states: "No donations may be raised, and no raising of donations may be permitted in the emirate or announced through print, audio, visual, or other means of communication and media, without first obtaining the written approval of the IACAD."
Further, whomsoever violates the aforementioned provisions of Donation Law of Dubai may be penalised with fines ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh 100,000 and or imprisonment for not less than one month. This is in accordance with Article 10 of the Donation Law of Dubai, which states:
1-Without prejudice to any stricter penalty stipulated in any other legislation, a person who violates the provisions of this decree or the resolutions issued in pursuance hereof will be punished by an imprisonment for not less than one month and not more than one year, by a fine of not less than Dh5,000 and not more than Dh100,000 or by both penalties. Courts will order the surrender of donations raised in breach of the provisions of this decree or the resolutions issued in pursuance hereof to the IACAD to determine the method of disposition of these donations and the entity to which they will be transferred.
2-Violators of the provisions of this decree or the resolutions issued in pursuance hereof will be referred by the director general to the competent judicial authorities.
Based on the aforementioned provisions of law, you may seek the required approval from the IACAD or the GAIAE of the applicable emirate if you intend to raise money through public as it is illegal to promote and collect donations online or provide social service of any nature without first obtaining the proper permission and licensing from the authorities concerned. However, you may personally support your friend financially or seek help from your family or friends to settle his outstanding credit card dues.
Know the law
Whomsoever violates the provisions of Donation Law of Dubai may be penalised with fines ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh100,000 and or imprisonment for not less than one month
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai
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