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DUBAI APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS COMPENSATORY DAMAGES FOR CRYPTOCURRENCY EMBEZZLEMENT

In a landmark decision, the Dubai Appeals Court (appeal no. 27/2024) upheld a ruling awarding punitive damages in a cryptocurrency embezzlement case marking a significant moment in the legal landscape of digital assets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This ruling underscores the judiciary's stance on financial crimes in the digital currency space, demonstrating the interaction between criminal and civil liabilities. Dubai: This ruling not only underscores the UAE's commitment to protecting investments in digital currencies but also sets a precedent for how similar cases might be treated in the future. This article explores the legal background of the case, the court's decision, and its implications for cryptocurrency regulation and investor protection in Dubai. Legal Background of Cryptocurrency in the UAE The UAE has been at the forefront of cryptocurrency adoption and regulation, with Dubai positioning itself as a hub for blockchain and financial technology. The legal framework governing cryptocurrencies in Dubai is still evolving, but several key legislations and regulatory bodies play a crucial role in overseeing the sector: Regulatory Framework: The Virtual Asset regulatory Authority (VARA), the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) have been instrumental in developing regulations that address various aspects of cryptocurrency operations, including anti-money laundering (AML) practices, cybersecurity measures, and consumer protection. Crypto Regulations: In recent years, Dubai has introduced more specific regulations aimed at managing the risks associated with digital assets and ensuring a stable financial and economic environment. These regulations focus on licensing, compliance, and monitoring of crypto-related activities. Case Overview The plaintiff filed a lawsuit claiming the defendant embezzled AED 200,000 intended for cryptocurrency transactions. The defendant had already faced criminal proceedings for the same act, resulting in a fine. Despite this, the plaintiff sought additional compensation for the financial loss incurred. Court Proceedings Criminal Court Proceedings: The defendant was tried in a criminal court for embezzling AED 200,000. The court found the defendant guilty, imposing a fine of AED 20,000 and ordering the defendant to pay the embezzled amount as restitution. Civil Court Proceedings: The plaintiff then pursued civil litigation to recover the financial loss. The Court of First Instance ruled in favor of the plaintiff, ordering the defendant to pay AED 200,000 with 5% annual interest from the date of demand until full payment. The defendant was also ordered to cover legal expenses and attorney fees. Appeal Court Proceedings: The defendant appealed the civil court’s decision on several grounds, including double jeopardy, lack of jurisdiction, and insufficient evidence. The Dubai Appeals Court examined the arguments presented by both parties. Arguments and Ruling Defendant’s Arguments: The defendant argued that the criminal court’s judgment, which included a directive to pay the embezzled amount, precluded further civil liability on the same grounds, invoking the principle of ne bis in idem (not being judged twice for the same act). The defendant also contested the civil court’s jurisdiction and argued that the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to warrant the claimed damages. Plaintiff’s Defense: The plaintiff maintained that the criminal penalty did not negate the right to civil compensation for the loss suffered. The plaintiff highlighted the jurisdiction of civil courts to adjudicate financial disputes and presented the criminal court’s judgment as evidence of the defendant’s liability. Court Ruling: The Dubai Appeals Court rejected the defendant’s arguments and upheld the Civil Court of First Instance’s judgment. The court clarified that the criminal court’s ruling imposed a penalty for the criminal act, while the civil court’s judgment aimed at compensating the plaintiff for the financial loss. The court found the civil lawsuit valid, emphasizing that the punitive damages awarded were distinct from the criminal fines and served to compensate the plaintiff adequately. Significance for Cryptocurrency Scams This ruling highlights the Dubai judiciary’s serious approach to financial crimes, particularly in the emerging field of cryptocurrencies. By distinguishing between criminal penalties and civil compensations, the court affirms that victims of cryptocurrency scams have a clear path to recovery beyond criminal proceedings. This case sets a precedent for handling similar disputes in the future, indicating that the legal system is equipped to address the complexities associated with digital currency fraud. It sends a strong message about the consequences of engaging in cryptocurrency embezzlement, reinforcing the importance of integrity in digital financial transactions. The Dubai Appeals Court upheld the initial ruling, emphasizing several key points in its judgment: Recognition of Cryptocurrency as Property: The court treated the cryptocurrency similar to physical or traditional assets, affirming that digital assets are subject to ownership rights that can be violated through criminal actions such as embezzlement. Legal Protection of Digital Assets: The ruling reinforced that individuals and entities dealing in cryptocurrencies have legal protections similar to those involved in transactions with more traditional forms of property. This aspect of the judgment is crucial as it provides a clear indication that the legal system in Dubai recognizes and protects the property rights associated with digital assets. Compensatory Damages: The court confirmed that compensatory damages in cases of cryptocurrency embezzlement should reflect the market value of the assets at the time of the crime. This approach ensures that victims are fully compensated for their losses and serves as a deterrent against the misuse of cryptocurrencies. Implications for the Future ·        Legal Precedent: This ruling sets a significant legal precedent, affirming the applicability of traditional legal principles such as property rights and compensatory damages to the realm of digital currencies. ·        Regulatory Impact: The decision may influence future regulations concerning digital assets in Dubai and potentially in other jurisdictions within the UAE. Regulatory bodies might introduce more detailed guidelines on the management, transfer, and protection of cryptocurrencies. Investor Confidence: By upholding the rights of cryptocurrency owners and investors, the ruling is likely to boost investor confidence, which is crucial for the continued growth and stability of the digital asset market in Dubai. In Conclusion The Dubai Appeals Court’s decision to uphold compensatory damages for cryptocurrency embezzlement is a watershed moment in the legal treatment of digital assets in the UAE. It reflects the maturity and adaptability of the Emirati legal system to new economic realities brought about by technological advancement. For investors and stakeholders in the cryptocurrency market, this ruling offers reassurance that the legal framework in Dubai is equipped to protect their interests and foster a secure and thriving digital asset environment. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the principles laid down in this case will likely guide future judicial and regulatory approaches to digital asset management and protection. ALKETBI TOUCH: Our team of professionals can guide you in the best way to file your criminal and civil complaints and can offer valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges presented by the new regulatory landscape. Our guidance supports you in selecting the best structure to regain your rights and compensation whether via criminal or civil way. Let us know if any wrongdoing has happened so we take the matter forward!

OVERVIEW OF THE UAE'S NEW BANKRUPTCY LAW

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented a new bankruptcy regulation, Federal Law Decree No 51 of 2023, on May 1, 2024. This new law supersedes the previous Federal Decree-Law No 9 of 2016. While retaining much of the previous law’s framework, it introduces notable changes affecting creditors and debtors, including explicitly recognizing both natural and legal persons as 'debtors'. It also preserves the emergency financial crisis provisions from the old law, signaling expected impacts on restructuring and insolvency proceedings in the UAE.Dubai: On May 1, 2024, the UAE enacted Federal Law Decree No 51 of 2023 concerning Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy (New Bankruptcy Law), which repeals Federal Decree-Law No 9 of 2016 (Old Bankruptcy Law) entirely. Despite this, much of the Old Bankruptcy Law's structure remains intact. Procedures for preventative settlement, financial restructuring, and bankruptcy are maintained, with the New Bankruptcy Law reinforcing certain provisions from the old one. For example, emergency financial crisis provisions are retained, and now, a "debtor" includes both natural and legal persons. Significant changes for creditors and debtors are introduced, which will likely affect restructuring and insolvency cases in the UAE moving forward. Introduction of New Administrative Units The New Bankruptcy Law introduces the "Bankruptcy Department" and the "Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Unit," which are expected to enhance the infrastructure, administration, and processes of the UAE’s bankruptcy regime. The Bankruptcy Department will likely be an extension of the Bankruptcy Courts, while the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Unit, an arm of the Ministry of Justice, will handle administrative aspects of bankruptcy and restructuring cases. This unit will also maintain a register of court judgments and insolvency applications against debtors, a first for the UAE. These administrative arms replace the Financial Restructuring Committee (FRC) under the Old Bankruptcy Law, clarifying the judicial authority and protections for debtors. Establishment of New Bankruptcy Courts The New Bankruptcy Law establishes specialized Bankruptcy Courts at both federal and local levels to manage and adjudicate preventative settlement, financial restructuring, and bankruptcy processes. This move aims to enhance the speed and efficiency of formal restructuring and insolvency cases in the UAE. Having dedicated Bankruptcy Courts aligns the UAE with international best practices, similar to the bankruptcy court system in the United States. All pending claims, legal proceedings, grievances, and actions under the Old Bankruptcy Law that have not been adjudicated by May 1, 2024, will be transferred to the new Bankruptcy Courts for determination under the New Bankruptcy Law. These courts will oversee the management of debtors' assets and business to ensure efficient proceedings and will have the authority to meet with creditors to discuss relevant matters. Decisions of the Bankruptcy Courts will be immediately enforceable as writs of execution, without requiring service, and enforcement of those decisions cannot be challenged, clarifying and streamlining onshore processes. Recognition of Bankruptcy Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions The New Bankruptcy Law does not adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, unlike the DIFC, ADGM, and Saudi Arabia. This means that separate recognition of the UAE bankruptcy process in foreign jurisdictions will still be necessary. However, recent decisions by English courts, indicate a willingness to recognize UAE bankruptcy proceedings, suggesting that other jurisdictions might follow suit. Changes to Preventative Composition Procedure The preventative composition procedure under the Old Bankruptcy Law is renamed "preventative settlement" under the New Bankruptcy Law. This debtor-led process allows a debtor to complete a composition, scheme, or restructuring plan with creditors. The New Bankruptcy Law allows debtors to manage their business and affairs during the process without automatically appointing a Trustee, provided creditors' interests are not harmed. A Trustee can be appointed only with the Bankruptcy Court's permission, a change favorably viewed by the UAE business community. Moratorium Period The New Bankruptcy Law reduces the moratorium period following the commencement of preventative settlement proceedings from ten months (extendable by four months) to three months, with possible extensions up to a maximum of six months. This aims to enhance the speed and efficiency of procedures under the New Bankruptcy Law. Debtors will need to carefully consider whether the preventative settlement route is appropriate, given the shortened moratorium period. Powers of Trustee and Creditor-Driven Tools The New Bankruptcy Law extends the powers and duties of Trustees to deal with debtor assets, under the oversight of the Bankruptcy Court and relevant administrative functions. However, it does not prescribe a creditor-driven process or out-of-court appointment of an independent office-holder, which some creditors might view as a missed opportunity. Creditors can still petition to initiate financial restructuring or bankruptcy procedures if relevant conditions are met. Insolvency Test Under the Old Bankruptcy Law, the insolvency test included both cashflow and balance sheet assessments. Debtors could submit to a preventative settlement procedure if they had not paid debts for over 30 consecutive working days due to financial instability or a debit estate. Alternatively, debtors could submit to financial restructuring or bankruptcy procedures if they ceased to pay debts for more than 30 consecutive working days due to financial instability or a debit estate. The New Bankruptcy Law removes the distinction between insolvency assessments for preventative settlement and bankruptcy procedures. Article 15 states that a debtor may apply for preventative settlement or bankruptcy proceedings within 60 days of ceasing payment or becoming aware of their inability to pay debts when due. This timeframe allows debtors additional breathing space and eliminates the balance sheet insolvency test, focusing solely on cashflow insolvency. The New Bankruptcy Law represents a significant investment in the UAE's bankruptcy infrastructure, with the establishment of Bankruptcy Courts, a Bankruptcy Department, and a Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Unit aligning the UAE's regulations with international best practices. Progress is also being made in recognizing UAE bankruptcy processes in other jurisdictions, even without adopting the UNCITRAL Model Law. While some creditors might have hoped for additional improvements, the new law retains the "rescue" framework of the Old Bankruptcy Law. Detailed regulations, including criteria like the minimum debt value for initiating bankruptcy proceedings, will be provided in the upcoming Executive Regulations. ALKETBI TOUCH: Our team of professionals is expert in handling bankruptcy files and can accompany you from the time you decide to initiate and will structure the process on your behalf, till the expert is appointed and the matter is validated. We are ready to waive your concerns in the most effective legal strategy and represent you in all matters related to insolvency. Let us know!

RESPONSIBILITY FOR APARTMENT REPAIRS IN DUBAI AFTER RAIN DAMAGE

In Dubai, where the architecture meets the sky, rain is a rare visitor. However, when it does arrive, it can bring with it unexpected challenges, particularly for apartment dwellers. Understanding the responsibilities related to apartment repairs after rain damage is crucial for tenants and landlords alike. Dubai: This article delves into the legal framework that outlines these responsibilities and offers guidance on handling the aftermath of rain-induced damage in Dubai. Following a rainstorm in Dubai, tenants might find themselves dealing with plumbing issues and water-damaged walls in their apartments. This situation raises an important question: who is responsible for covering the cost of these repairs, the landlord or the tenant? Understanding the Legal FrameworkThe relationship between tenants and landlords in Dubai is primarily governed by Law No. 26 of 2007, as amended by Law No. 33 of 2008 (as the “Law”). This Law is designed to balance the interests of both parties in a rental agreement, ensuring fairness and clarity in dealings related to rental propertiesKey Provisions of the LawIn Dubai, the general rule is that the landlord is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the rental property. Article 16 of the Law explicitly states that: “The landlord shall, during the validity of the contract, be liable for handling the works of maintenance of property and the reparation of any defect or fault that affects the tenant's sought benefit, unless both parties otherwise agree.”This means that unless the tenancy contract specifies otherwise, the landlord is obliged to handle repairs and maintenance necessary for the tenant in order to be able to fully use the property. This includes any damages caused by natural events like rainstorms. The landlord is responsible for the maintenance of the property during the term of the tenancy (as mentioned in the tenancy contract) and must fix any defects or damage that might affect the tenant's intended use of the property. This general rule covers significant aspects of the property, including the structure and utilities that might be affected by adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain. Article 17 of the Law states that: "The landlord is responsible for any defect, damage, deficiency or wear and tear, caused to the leased property for any reason not attributable to the fault of the tenant." Article 767(1) of Federal Law No. 5/1985 (the Civil Transactions Law) states that: "The landlord has the obligation to repair any defect that affects the tenant's use and enjoyment of the leased property. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant shall have the right to cancel the lease or to apply for an order that he is allowed to affect the repair and recover the fair and reasonable cost thereof from the landlord – This article refers to major defects (structural) where the tenant is deprived of beneficial occupation." This elaborates that the Landlords have a legal obligation to maintain the property in a habitable condition throughout the lease term. This includes ensuring that the property is safe, structurally sound, and free from health hazards. The Landlords are responsible for major repairs related to the property's structure, plumbing, electrical systems, and heating/cooling systems.When Tenants Might Be ResponsibleHowever, the specifics of your tenancy contract are crucial. If the tenancy contract explicitly states that the tenant is responsible for certain types of maintenance and repairs, then the tenant is held liable for such costs. It is less common for such clauses to assign significant repair responsibilities to tenants, but it does happen.Practical Steps for Tenants Review Your Tenancy Contract: The first step should always be to check the tenancy contract for any clauses related to maintenance and repairs. The tenancy contract will clarify whether the tenant or the landlord is responsible for the damage caused by the rain. Communicate with the Landlord: If the tenancy contract is unclear, or if the tenant believes that the damage falls under the landlord’s responsibilities, communicate with the landlord. Providing evidence of the damage and referencing Article 16 of the Law can support any case claimed by the tenant. Opening communication channels between the tenant and landlord can facilitate a smoother resolution process. Tenants should formally notify their landlords of the damage in writing and keep a record of all communications, as this documentation could be essential if any disagreements arise. Understand the Tenant’s Rights: Familiarizing oneself with the Law can help prevent disputes and ensure a fair and transparent living arrangement. Knowing who is responsible for repairs can protect the tenant from unnecessary stress and financial burden. Tenant’s ResponsibilitiesWhile the bulk of repair responsibilities falls to the landlord, tenants also have obligations. Article 19 of the Law implies that the tenants are required to use the property in a manner that maintains its condition. If negligence on the part of the tenant leads to damage, the tenant may be liable for the damages caused by him. For instance, if a tenant fails to close windows during rain, leading to water damage inside the apartment, the tenant could be held responsible for the damage incurred.Assessing and Reporting Damage·        Immediate assessment and reporting of rain-induced damage are critical. Tenants should inform their landlords as soon as possible after discovering any damage. Documenting the damage through photographs and detailed notes is also advisable, as this information can be useful in repair discussions or potential disputes.Insurance Considerations·        While not mandatory, having home insurance can provide an additional layer of protection for both tenants and landlords. Insurance policies may cover some forms of rain damage, alleviating financial responsibilities for repairs. Tenants and landlords should review their insurance policies to understand the coverage scope and ensure that the property and its contents are adequately protected against natural elements like rain.Dispute Resolution·        If disagreements occur between the tenant and landlord regarding responsibilities for repairs, Dubai’s Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC) is the designated authority for resolving such issues. Established under Law No. 26, the RDSC provides a mechanism for both parties to resolve their disputes amicably and legally.Preventive Measures·        To minimize potential rain damage, regular maintenance is key. Landlords should ensure that all aspects of the property, such as the roof, windows, and plumbing, are well-maintained and prepared to withstand adverse weather conditions. Tenants, on their part, should take preventive measures like ensuring windows are closed during rain and reporting any maintenance issues that could exacerbate damage during a storm.In ConclusionIn most cases, Dubai's landlords are responsible for maintaining the property and addressing any repair issues that interfere with the tenant's use of the property, including damage caused by rain. However, always check your lease agreement for any specific provisions that might shift this responsibility to you as the tenant.Responsibility for apartment repairs after rain damage in Dubai primarily rests with the landlords, as stipulated by the Dubai Tenancy Law. However, tenants also have a role in maintaining the condition of the property and avoiding negligence that could lead to damage. By understanding their legal obligations and rights, both parties can manage rain damage effectively and maintain the quality and safety of the rental property. For any unresolved issues, the RDSC provides a structured process to address disputes and find a resolution.By understanding the legal framework and the terms of your lease, you can better understand the responsibilities and ensure that necessary repairs are handled promptly and fairly.ALKETBI TOUCH: Our team of professionals is can offer valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges presented by the regulatory landscape. Our guidance not only helps companies mitigate risks but also enhances their reputation and competitiveness in the market. If you request further guidance or you have concerns and queries, Let us know!

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