Overview of the New UAE Federal Penal Code

  • Legal Development 2022年4月26日 2022年4月26日
  • 中东

  • 商事争议

The UAE has recently issued a number of legislative reforms as part of its golden jubilee. One such change is the replacement of the penal code with Federal Law No. 31/2021 (the New Penal Code). The New Penal Code came into force on 2 January 2022. In this article, we summarise some of the most significant developments.

Decriminalisation of bounced cheques

One of the most significant changes introduced by the New Penal Code is decriminalising the issuance of cheques with insufficient funds. The civil remedies for this offence have, however, been enhanced.

Previously the threat of criminal proceedings was used as a stick to recoup the value of a bounced cheque or settle the claim. While this option is no longer available, the expedited civil route is expected to provide a quicker alternative and to result in more recoveries. The criminal route very rarely yielded tangible results, particularly where the drawer of the cheque was already subject to multiple criminal complaints by their various creditors. The changes also bring the UAE in line with most other developed nations, which has been a key driving force in the raft of new legislation introduced.

However, it is important to bear in mind that recourse to criminal proceedings is still permitted for bounced cheques which have been issued fraudulently.

Overview of other offences

Criminal proceedings, or the threat of criminal proceedings, can often go hand in hand with civil litigation in the UAE, particularly in respect of ‘white-collar’ crime. Some of the key provisions of the New Penal Code which we believe will have an impact on the financial crime framework in the UAE are as follows:

Crime Penalty Provision
A public official, foreign public official or employee of an international organisation demanding, accepting or receiving a bribe. Imprisonment Article 275 and 276
A manager or employee of a private organisation demanding or accepting a bribe. Imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years. Article 278
Perjury in civil and criminal (non-felony) proceedings. Imprisonment for a period not less than 3 months. Article 302
Publishing materials to influence legal proceedings. Imprisonment or fine. If the publication is false, the penalty is both imprisonment and a fine. Article 312
Concealing or destroying evidence during the course of an investigation or legal proceedings with the intention to mislead Imprisonment or a fine.

Article 316

Failing to submit a document to court when requested to do so without legal justification. Imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding AED 5,000. Article 317
A person, in bad faith, dealing with property subject to enforcement proceedings. Imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years and/or a fine not exceeding AED 100,000. Article 318


A sea change

The introduction of the New Penal Code is part of the largest campaign of legislative reforms in the country’s 50-year history, which has included changes to over 40 laws. Such a large-scale overhaul in such a short period of time demonstrates the UAE’s willingness to continuously develop its legal system and evolve with changing economic and social needs. The New Penal Code is yet a further positive step forward in aligning the UAE with international best practice.

For more information on the New Federal Penal Code, please contact Richard Bell.




Year of the 50th series | Transforming the UAE legal landscape