Abandoned luxury cars left at airports across the United Arab Emirates may not entirely be the fault of expats escaping tough debt laws.Recent reports have highlighted high-end sports cars gathering dust at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports from panicked expats fleeing the country to avoid prison sentences for money owed.
Images of a limited edition Ferrari Enzo, worth more than £1 million, allegedly abandoned in Dubai by a British expat have been circulated widely. He was believed to have defaulted on a loan for the supercar and fled the city to escape possible imprisonment.
Under Sharia law which is observed across the Middle East, non-payment of debt is a criminal offence. As the UAE has no bankruptcy laws, there is no protection for those slipping into debt, even accidentally.
There have been cases of foreigners being prevented from leaving the Emirates after being blacklisted for simply missing a credit card payment or bouncing a cheque.
But the spate of abandoned luxury cars – of which more than 3,000 were discovered last year – is not an exclusive tactic of expats on the run.
One British expat said: “It’s not just expats to blame for the irresponsible act of leaving expensive cars behind as they flee their debts, but many locals too. The aftermath of the global financial crisis affected people from all walks of life, not just foreign workers.
“Many took out big loans to finance flashy cars to keep up with their peers. But when things slowed down they have struggled to make repayments and have fallen into debt. Foreigners and locals have been caught out alike.”
A recent tranche of cars impounded by the Municipality of Abu Dhabi included a mix of foreign and Emirati owners.
A chief drawback of the abandoned cars is that they take up much-needed spaces at airport car parks. On the plus side, many of these luxury cars are auctioned by the police at bargain prices.
Once a vehicle is suspected of being abandoned, local government inspectors will issue a warning notice. If the owner fails to respond within 15 days the car will be taken to a police scrapyard where it can still be reclaimed for a small fee.
Most impounded vehicles however are never reclaimed, with hundreds of cars auctioned off each year.
While the global economic slowdown has dented growth within the Gulf states, the UAE is still one of the region’s strongest economies.
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