1,350 jailed every year for dud cheques.
Cheques which get bounced are one of the major financial offences in Oman. About 70 per cent of the offenders get caught when they don't honour their car installments and the rest include utility bills, retail purchases and property purchases.
Article 290 of Oman Penal Law says those found guilty could face prison terms ranging from three months to two years. Offenders also pay fines ranging from RO10 to RO500 if found to have issued post-dated cheques that cannot be encashed.
"The problem is that unpaid cheques incur interest and car agents charge about two per cent a day for the unpaid money. So not only they face criminal charges for dud cheques but also for not paying arrears," Hassan Al Moosawi, a debt collector from Tawfeeq Debt Settlements, told Times of Oman.
For those who think that spending time in prison would settle the debt, then they are mistaken, according to the past offenders.
Suleiman Al Harthy was jailed for three months for issuing six cheques which bounced as he did not have the money to pay his car installments. After coming out, the car agent still pressed him to pay the amount.
"I paid back not only for those six cheques but for all those months in interests. And that after spending a quarter of the year in prison," Al Harthy explained.
About 60 percent of the dud cheque issuers are young people between the ages of 24 to 32, according to official records.
"They are the ones who want to climb the ladder of success very fast. They buy expensive cars or make purchases they can't afford like buying a land but fail to keep up with the payment after a year or two down the road," Al Moosawi said. But financial experts blame companies for giving credits to their customers without checking their ability to pay.
"It is so easy to buy a car on installment. Only you need are cheques and an employment certificate. But car agents don't check the customer's other financial liabilities like mortgages, utility bills and their daily expenses," Faisal Al Siyabi, finance manager of Capital Investments, told Times of Oman.
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