A United Arab Emirates bank is alleged to have waged a campaign of harassment against an Irish consultant doctor who owed it money.
The High Court heard claims the hospital where the doctor worked and the law firm representing him were bombarded with debt collection calls, including one telling his solicitor she was “harbouring a criminal”.
Details of the alleged harassment where outlined in a ruling by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys dismissing a bankruptcy summons against the consultant.
The judge said that while National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah, which trades as Rakbank, had denied harassment, much of the alleged behaviour was “set out clearly” in contemporaneous solicitors’ correspondence and a personal affidavit sworn by the doctor’s solicitor.
Demands for repayment were said to have been accompanied by reference to the possibility of imprisonment in the UAE. The doctor, who is based in Kilkenny, claimed his health and ability to work were affected by the harassment.
He was represented in the case by Catherine Allison and Co, a law firm specialising in bankruptcy and insolvency.
The doctor had previously been adjudicated bankrupt on his own petition in June 2016.
Two years earlier, the consultant had borrowed AED1.25m (€290,000) from the bank.
Despite being in bankruptcy, the doctor took out a further loan for AED398,636 (€92,600) in October 2016, the bulk of which was to pay off interest on the earlier loan.
The doctor claimed the new loan was to restructure the earlier debt and that the bank had forced it on him with threatening and harassing behaviour. According to the judgment, the doctor was discharged from bankruptcy in June 2017.
Three months later, his solicitors complained to gardaí in Kilkenny that he was being unlawfully harassed.
The solicitors said the debt collection efforts had jammed the switchboard of their client’s employer and were “extremely aggressive”.
A demand for a balance of AED1.3m (€307,000) was said to have been made in December 2018 through a law firm in England.
The bank then applied for a bankruptcy summons in July last year. One was eventually issued by the High Court last December and served on the doctor in February.
He subsequently challenged the summons before Mr Justice Humphreys. In a ruling delivered yesterday, the judge concluded the effect of the 2016 adjudication of bankruptcy was to discharge any debt owing on that date.
He said it was reasonably open to the consultant to argue that the 2014 debt was discharged by the adjudication and consequently the restructuring of the alleged liability in 2016 amounted to an impermissible attempt to revive a discharged debt.
Mr Justice Humphreys also said the doctor had put forward sufficient prima facie evidence of “excessive contact” in terms of debt enforcement that it was possible to raise an issue regarding duress and harassment.
The judge said the references made to imprisonment in the UAE was an implied threat that the bank might take steps to have him imprisoned there.
He also said that, assuming the doctor was unable to pay, this would be a serious violation of accepted standards of fundamental human rights.
Article 11 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights provided that no one should be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation and that a similar provision was present in the European Convention on Human Rights, the judge said.