Enforcing Against Horses & Camels in the UAE
Enforcement is an issue that frequently arises with plaintiffs in the United Arab Emirates. The difficulties are multi-fold; lack of follow-up by counsel; aggressive asset transfer and concealment by the defendant (i.e. such as real estate transfer to a spouse); queuing behind prior creditors whom have already issued attachment orders on assets; but one crucial factor is knowing where to look for assets.
Horses and camels in the United Arab Emirates can have values in the millions of US dollars and, for example, during the annual Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition, transactions can be in the hundreds of thousands for young camels or horses.
When a favorable judgment is obtained and at the time of enforcement, it may be found that the defendant would have cleared bank accounts and transferred ownership of vehicles and real estate to other parties.
What a defendant may overlook is concealing was their livestock, which is an asset that can be enforced against.
Below we provide a general overview of the enforcement procedures, and a clearer insight into how enforcement procedures against horses or camels would play out, bearing in mind that other livestock such as falcons or sheep can be valuable assets to consider.
General Enforcement Steps
Enforcement orders are administered by the Enforcement Judge (alternatively translated as the ‘Execution Judge’). A request is submitted via the online system where the request must include inter alia the respective judgment and itemized details of the debt (including items such as costs, etc.), requiring the Judge to notify the debtor and hold a hearing within fifteen working days. The online system is available in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras Al-Khaimah. The Federal Courts, on the other hand, require over-the-counter applications and follow-up.
Once the Judge is comfortable that notification has concluded successfully, through all the required methods, by courier, digitally, and so on, but the debtor has not attended a hearing, the Judge would liaise with the UAE Identification Authority to confirm whether the debtor is within or outside the UAE. Finally, it is preferable that the creditor requests the Judge to issue a public notification via a daily Arabic newspaper.
With all the above steps concluded, the creditor can begin to apply for enforcement of assets. This process requires the creditor to request the Judge to issue a writ to one or various entities for the disclosure of assets that the debtor may own as registered in the databases of such entities. The Abu Dhabi Courts, for example, have a predefined list of entities that can disclose such information.
The list, however, is not comprehensive and it is up to the creditor (or more so, the creditor’s counsel) to explore other valuable assets and their respective overseeing authorities.
When it comes to livestock, a bespoke request must be made, even if electronically.
Horses generally have title deeds that are registered with a particular authority such as the Emirates Equestrian Federation, the Emirates Arabian Horse Society, or the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation.
A writ of inquiry issued to the above entities would result in the disclosure of any registration data of horses owned by the debtor. The details would also include the stables at which a horse is being housed.
Subsequently, a request is made to the Judge to issue a writ of enforcement addressed to the stable to seize the horse(s).
Once the writ is communicated to the stable, the stable will maintain the horse until it is auctioned off through court.
During the period of when the horse is seized and until it is auctioned off, the horse remains maintained and looked after for, and all costs associated with the horse’s maintenance are added to the cost order against the debtor.
As opposed to horse trade, camel trade in the UAE is not as systematic and occurs in a more customary manner.
The reason being is that camels may be prize/breeder camels or race camels, as horses may be prize horses/breeder or racehorses, but a significant portion of camels in the UAE are generally kept on farms as cattle.
Trade of camels occurs on a more customary basis with owners transferring camels without contractual arrangements, and camels being cared for by other private farm owners, as opposed to commercial stables.
These customary transactions make asset tracing of cattle camels somewhat more difficult than for horses, but entities such as the Dubai Camel Racing Club or the Camel Racing Association would hold data with respect to race/prize camels for a creditor to enforce against.
The lack of systemization of camel trade also makes it difficult to quantify the costs associated with maintaining the camel. However, the courts can accept reasonable valuations submitted by parties.
For example, in Federal Supreme Court case no. 320 of 1995, the following ruling was issued:
The facts, as evidenced by the contested judgment and all other documents, indicate that the plaintiff filed the case no. 108 of 1994 before the Federal Court of First Instance in Al Ain to 1) oblige them to pay him an amount of AED 367,500 as the value of the camel, the amounts incurred in feeding and care in addition to the amount of 400 dirhams value of water per month, and the amount of 1,000 dirhams per month as wages of the worker who supervised the camel until the dismissal of the case…3) writing to the Office of the Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region to commission the “Camel Commission” to inspect the camel and to give an opinion as to whether it is a pure breed race camel…