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Forgery under UAE Law

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on July 14, 2023, 17:41:00


UAE, forgery, Dubai, law, Government securities, stamps, evidence, cheques

When Sutherland invented the term white-collar crime, they indicated those crimes which were financially motivated but non-violent. If someone steals your credit card and they use it by impersonating you or they sign on a document just the way you would have signed, then you know that their actions attract the laws on forgery. Whether a document is original or fake, it can only be identified by a forensic document examiner. One of the most common white-collar crimes in the world is an act of forgery and it is met with punitive action in the UAE. 
Forged documents, for instance, like passports are subject to a retro check by machines which use transmitted light, magnifiers, and ultraviolet light to detect fraudulent use by the individual who tries to enter the country. The officers and the government authorities ensure that at every stage, such documents are scrutinised and also these documents are made subject to a series of verifications to ensure that there has not been any act of forgery. If the deployed officers find anything suspicious, then the person with the fake passport has attempted the Decree Law cybercrimes to enter the country, and also, they will face imprisonment terms, pay fines or even face deportation.

Under the ambit of forgery, government securities and stamps, written documents, or impersonating another person shall be covered. Among documents, both, official, and government documents and customary documents can be forged. Passports, title deeds, birth and marriage certificate, etc. will be included in the customary documents, whereas the forgery of money, postage stamps, bonds, government securities or regular documents which could be of agreements or invoices, are included under the forgery of government documents.  

The crime of forgery has often been glamorized in crime series and crime-related movies. To prove the existence of the crime, i.e., forgery, both, the prosecutor and the defendant, are required to provide significant evidence and also the charges against forgery are extremely complex.  
Forgery is wrongdoing where the bogus document or a mark is used by an individual by mirroring something which is of significant worth and using it to deceive or defraud another person. The person committing this crime can also be held liable for the charges of fraud and misrepresentation. Most of the forged documents consist of cards for ID, contracts, lawful testaments or other desk work holding esteem. An individual can be accused by the state if his or her objective is to commit fraud or robbery, also the state can explicit forgery charges. The person should generally complete the crime of forgery and if not, then at least they have the plan to do so, i.e., achieving the completion of the crime of forgery. The individual in question can deal with the indictments or plan and for the real culmination of the criminal act. 
Creating, altering, using and possessing any fake document with the intent of committing fraud is considered an act of forgery. The crime of forgery may include forging an official and government document, a signature or as simple as a cheque. Generally, such documents depend vigorously on the capacity to deliver and trade genuine and reliable records. In this regard, the forged documents may have genuine and significant negative results on organizations, governments and individuals. Thus, the act of forgery is seen as a felony in the UAE and most other countries. 

UAE Penal Code characterizes forgery under Article 216 as changing the original document from its reality in any manner or as referred below to make any harm with the aim utilize the forged document as an original: 
1. To alter a genuine instrument, whether or not by including, clearing or changing any of its formed parts, numbers, checks or pictures
2. To incorrectly sign or put a bogus seal, or to change a genuine mark, seal or etching
3. To get by extortion or conning a mark or seal from a person who neglected to peruse the substance of the report
4. To make wrongly or duplicate an instrument and attribute it to another person
5. To fill a clear paper which is checked, fixed or marked, without the support of the person who has stamped, fixed or engraved it
6. To acknowledge the name of another person or to substitute it in an archive which has been orchestrated unequivocally to show the character of such other person
7. A material alteration in any composition with a bogus point, forestalling the genuine expectation of the archive to be accomplished.
The provision mentioned above clearly declares that the crime of forgery is can be categorized under two groups, i.e., material and moral forgery. The former forgery is committed when the accused significantly changes the document or makes a material change in the document or it involves the creation of any material change in the document such as deletion, modification or addition to it, also using ink marks, replacing original photographs with the fake ones and so on. Whereas, a moral forgery is when the criminal amends the basic information in the document such as date, topic, conditions etc. or it entails changing the meaning or content of any document or using a non-forged document but by using the identity of another person. For example, if X uses a non-forged, i.e., valid and genuine passport of Y and also Y’s identity for entering the country, it will be counted as moral forgery and it will also result in the commission of identity theft, which is considered as a more serious offence to Decree-Law attempted.

Forgery of Currency or Government Securities
Article 204, replaced by Article 1 of Federal Decree-Law Cybercrimes Number 7 of 2016, of the Penal Code makes the forgery, counterfeiting or falsifying of a banknote or coin in circulation in the State or any other country, or government security, either in person or through an intermediary punishable with a sentence to life or temporary imprisonment and to fine of not less than UAE Dirhams two hundred.

Electronic Forgery
The crime of forgery has developed over time and people have found novel and digital ways to defraud people in the 21st century. This results in the new laws which deal with the punishment of imprisonment and fines for cybercrimes in general and electronic forgery in particular. The Cybercrime Law was issued, replacing the law on Prevention of Information Technology Crimes, which rescinds many of the earlier provisions and includes laws from the Penal Code and the other laws that would result in the ill-repute of the State and its people. Article 4 of the Cybercrime Law provides for the temporary detention of an individual who forges a government document which is legally recognised in an Information System. For any other document, if "mens rea" i.e. Criminal Intent is present during the commission of an act of forgery, the person may be imprisoned or be subject to a fine, or face both imprisonment and fine. The law also issues charges on the people who use forged documents knowing that it is forged or the people who are responsible for the moral forgery. Article 14 of the Cybercrime Law further makes the forgery or imitation of credit cards, debit cards or any other mode of electronic payment, a criminal offence. It also punishes an individual who knows about such forgery and still accepts forged credit cards, debit cards or any electronic mode of payment. The punishment can either be imprisonment or a fine of not less than UAE Dirhams five hundred but not exceeding UAE Dirhams two thousand or both imprisonment and the imposition of a fine.

Burden of Proof
As per Article 1 of the Law of Evidence, the plaintiff has the burden of proof for his right and the defendant must disprove it. Thus, it is the plaintiff or challenger, who is liable to prove that a particular document has been forged. Article 23 of the Law of Evidence declares that the onus then lies on the opponent who takes the oath that he had no knowledge of any forgery and proves that the challenger or predecessor-in-title issued such a document.
Official or governmental and informal documents, both may be challenged for forgery while contesting the signature, seal, writing, and fingerprints apply only to formal documents. Article 8 of the Penal Code suggests that unless formal writing is established to be forged, it has probative force erga omnes concerning the matters recorded by its author in the limits of his duties or respect of acts performed by the parties in his presence. 
Checking fundamentally on the points of reference in case of forgery, it is decided by the Court of Cassation that the burden of proof of the act of forgery is on the complainant to illustrate the reliability of the document on which they were depending, under the Law of Evidence of UAE. Simply put, if the accused denies the charges of forgery, the complainant shall prove the opposite. 
Having mentioned that, the investigation for a forged document can be initiated at any point of time during the proceedings. To prove the guilt of the accused in the matter of the forged document, the complainant is supposed to submit documentation and evidence. Though, if the evidence provided by the complainant is insufficient or if the court thinks that they can further investigate the matter or the document, the court may refer to the document for further inquiry to get the outcome. 

The Defences
The creation of fake and fraudulent documents leads to the formation of the crime of forgery. Though, in the case where the individual is unable to create a forged document, the court shall not consider it as a forgery. However, the court will still consider the criminal intention as a crime itself and may order the charges against that individual under UAE criminal law. Using the photocopy of a person’s signature shall still be considered a valid act of forgery.
The second defence the Criminal Lawyers of Dubai often use is the intention to commit such a crime. In the crime of forgery, the intention to deceive or commit forgery is important and the absence of such intent may not lead to the crime of forgery. Any person may copy the work done by another person and still not commit forgery because he had no intention of using it as original by deception to sell to others or use it in such a way that deceives the other party by appearing as the original. To submit the defence on behalf of him in court, any person who is facing the charges of forgery in UAE can appoint criminal lawyers. The main objective of any lawyer is to ensure the safety of the defendant by providing strong legal arguments and adequate documentation to prove his innocence before relevant court authorities.

Challenge for Forgery
If any document seems to be forged prima facia, i.e., at first sight, then the court may order that the document is invalid, also, the parties may challenge that any document is forged at any stage of the litigation by submitting a memorandum to the court where their allegations are specified along with proper evidence and where the investigation is spelt out. If the court is convinced that the allegation is accurate, it shall order further investigation. The party against whom the allegation of a forged document is put forward may also interrupt the investigation process. Without prejudice to conservative measures, the document which has been challenged for forgery would then be deemed unfit for execution. Articles 28-32 of the Law on Evidence, state provisions which are concerned with the challenge of forgery. In case the challenge for forgery is dismissed by the court or the forfeiture of the right of the challenge to prove his allegations, the challenger can be liable to pay a fine of not less than UAE Dirhams five hundred but not exceeding UAE Dirhams three thousand. He shall be freed from his obligations even if some part of his allegations is true and the document is proved to be forged.

Denial is sufficient in most cases for a customary document unless a challenge for forgery is made which may be contested for the writing, seal, signature or fingerprint. Thus, the individual who relies on the document must prove its credibility under trial by an attorney while the opponent has to disprove the same. While denial is sufficient in most cases, courts have recognised "mens rea" i.e. Criminal Intent as an important part of forgery wherein the offence is realised by the intention to alter the truth in the document.
Articles 23(1) and 11 of Law on Evidence, suggest that a mere denial is sufficient and the official or customary document may be challenged for forgery while contesting for the signature, seal, writing, or fingerprint which applies only to informal documents until proven by the opponent who holds onto its authenticity of having signed the document. The opponent is responsible for the burden of proof in this case with there being no need to take the person who denies challenging forgery on what was attributed to him as his signature under the judgment of the Court of Cassation.

According to article 217 of the Penal Code, a person who forges a copy of an official document where such copy is used, or who uses a copy of an official document knowing that it is forged, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term, not more than five years.

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