UAE banks headed for India to recover Rs 50,000 crore

Most cases involve corporate loans taken by Dubai or Abu Dhabi-based arms of Indian firms :  At least 9 banks from the UAE are in the process of initiating legal action against Indian defaulters to recover around Rs 50,000 crore, after New Delhi made the rulings of Emirati courts in civil cases enforceable here.

While most of the cases involve corporate loans taken by Dubai or Abu Dhabi-based subsidiaries of Indian companies, action is also being planned against individuals, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

These banks include UAE-based Emirates NBD, Mashreq Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. A few other lenders such as Doha Bank, National Bank of Oman and National Bank of Bahrain, that have exposure to Indian entities or citizens through their branches in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, also have either already moved courts in the UAE or are in the process of doing so in the coming weeks, the people said.

“Most of the cases are of corporate loans and that is also the priority for the banks as the amounts involved are huge. But some banks also have retail loan exposure to India,” said one of the people. Most of the loans were taken in the past 10 to 15 years.

The Indian government on January 17 issued a notification allowing the decrees of certain UAE courts in civil cases to be enforceable in India. This means a UAE bank, if it has a court order in its favour against a defaulter who has fled to India or no more has operations in the Emirates, can seek to enforce it here like any local lender to recover the money.

“Earlier UAE-based banks had no recourse to enforce judgements directly to recover their corporate or retail loans given to Indians in the UAE, but now they can take action in India. So, now UAE banks can initiate execution proceedings in India after they take a decree from a UAE court and may also explore initiating proceedings under the IBC (India’s Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code),” said Ajay Monga, a partner at law firm SNG & Partners.

According to the people in the know, these banks have approached Indian law firms to assist them in completing the legal process here, such as serving notices on the defaulters or approaching the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which deals with IBC cases.

Emails sent to Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Doha Bank, Mashreq Bank, National Bank of Oman and National Bank of Bahrain did not elicit any response till press time Friday.

“The banks could first issue notices and see the response of the defaulter,” said a senior lawyer advising one of the banks in a Rs 300 crore corporate loan default. “The banks could also approach the NCLT or even invoke personal guarantees,” he said. Besides, they could look at filing criminal cases in India against the individuals involved.

In its notification, the Ministry of Law and Justice said the UAE would be a reciprocating territory under section 44A of Civil Procedure Code.

The section essentially says that any decree passed by the superior courts of any “reciprocating territory” may be executed in India, as if it has been passed by Indian courts. Similarly, the UAE will allow the rulings of Indian courts in civil cases. The government notification allows the ruling of two UAE-based federal courts and five other courts to be enforceable in India.

“This notification ends confusion as to whether UAE is a reciprocating territory or not. Earlier, the bilateral agreement between the two nations to provide for the recognition of foreign judgements was not acceptable by Indian courts for want of a notification,” said Ateev Mathur, a partner at law firm SNG & Partners.

According to people in the know, while corporate loans form a large chunk of UAE’s exposure, even retail loans are quite substantial. “The average ticket size of retail loans is around Rs 2 crore. Many Indians had taken loans and it seems with sole purpose of not returning it,” said one of the people.

Many individuals had given personal guarantees to UAE banks before taking the loans. These personal guarantees could be invoked & criminal cases filed against the individuals, said legal experts.

Source : Economic Times

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