Illegally raising funds for charity in UAE could land you in jail

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Fund-raising must be done in coordination with a registered UAE charity organisation

Any illegal raising of funds in violation of the law could result into two months to one year in jail and a fine from Dh5,000 to Dh100,000 depending on the court ruling.

Dubai: Residents and organisations have been warned against violating a law that regulates fund-raising for charitable causes, which could land them in jail.

The warning comes days after the reported arrest of an Australian-British national by Dubai Police for allegedly violating the law.

The Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) has warned the public against taking up fund-raising campaigns and activities individually, as such practices are being strictly regulated in the UAE.

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Scott Richards was reportedly arrested for allegedly promoting a US-registered charity raising money for refugees in Afghanistan via Facebook without any permission or authorisation from the IACAD. He was reportedly released on bail.

An IACD spokesperson told Gulf News that Decree No 9 of 2015 issued by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, prohibits collecting donations or advertising of fund-raising campaigns through all forms of media without obtaining prior written approval from the IACAD. Violation of the law could result in two months to one year in jail and a fine ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh100,000 depending on the court’s ruling.

Also, Article No 27 of Federal Law No 5 of 2012 on combating cybercrimes stipulates that establishing or managing a website and using any other IT or electronic means to promote the collection of donations without a permit from the specialised bodies is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine ranging from Dh250,000-Dh500,000.

Following the publication of the new law, guidelines were announced to ensure that the money reaches the right people, he said. “In cases where individuals and organisations are willing to carry out a fund-raising event for a good cause or collect donations, they should first approach a registered charity authorised by the IACAD and place their request to them, which will then be forwarded to us to be examined and approved within 14 working days,” he said.

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If the approval is not sent out after 14 days, it means it has been denied, he said. “We try to issue an approval within a few days’ time; however some cases need to be further examined and take more time for approval.”

There are only nine charities approved and licensed by the IACAD, which are authorised to collect donations and oversee charity events in Dubai.

“There are other charitable institutions in Dubai which provide donations but are not authorised to collect donations,” he said.

Commenting on Richard’s case, the spokesperson said since he wasn’t planning to collect donations, he should have approached the IACAD directly for approval. “He still violated the law when he promoted a non UAE-registered charity on social media.”

For a person or institution planning to carry out a fund-raising event for a specific cause, the approved and licensed charity organisation in the UAE works as a mediator and will run the campaign and collect donations after receiving a written approval from the IACAD.

“People seeking financial help for a treatment they cannot afford, for example, are required to raise the issue with a registered charity organisation here, who will take up the case and see if the person is in need and then send a request to us. In one case, a resident was suffering from cancer and couldn’t pay for the treatment. He got in touch with us because he didn’t know what to do, and we guided that person to the charity organisation that would raise the money for him.”

The registered charity organisation then opened a bank account for the patient to receive donations from people and money was then given to the patient.

“An approach like this guarantees that the right amount of donations is collected and delivered. The IACAD also has a department to follow up on charity campaigns and records the donations collected in the UAE,” he said.

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The spokesperson warned people against individually promoting foreign charity organisations or collecting donations on their behalf without the IACAD’s approval. “We are in a position to guide donors and help them understand the procedures they need to take. If someone is willing to collect donations here to support an organisation outside the country, they cannot do it alone, a registered charity here has to be involved in the process. From our end, we need to verify the organisation outside is not helping wrong causes before handing approvals.”

He clarified that if donations are being raised within a home between the family and not made publicly, then that is a personal matter which the IACAD will not interfere with.

“Awareness is still needed in our community. We do not want people to be discouraged to donate. Instead, we encourage the public to continue their humanitarian work but to first make sure they have an approval. The decree is only meant to regulate the donation process, bring transparency to the act of charity and prevent any violations.”

He also said that law regulates the fund-raising process and not donations made by people to others. “People do not violate this law if they make a donation. This is a decision they can take on their own without needing an approval, but they need to make sure their money goes to the right people. It is the fund-raising process that the law regulates.”

Authorized charities in Dubai

1. Mohammad Bin Rashid Charitable Humanitarian Foundation

2. Al Maktoum Foundation

3. Dar Al Ber Society

4. Dubai Charity Association

5. Beit Al Khair Society

6. Dubai Foundation For Women and Children

7. Emirates Red Crescent

8. Noor Dubai Foundation

9. Dubai Cares

Authorised charities in Abu Dhabi

1. Khalifa Foundation

2. Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation

3. Zayed Giving Initiative

4. Red Crescent – Abu Dhabi

5. Takatof, part of Emirates Foundation

(Gulfnews)