Praveen Kumar, a Greater Noida-based businessman, was kept in custody for having the same name and date of birth as an infamous criminal in Abu Dhabi. He was detained for nearly four days in the United Arab Emirates.
Kumar came home to Greater Noida on Saturday night after being detained in Abu Dhabi in an unusual mistaken identification incident. On October 11, he was travelling to Switzerland with his wife and was ready to board a connecting flight in Abu Dhabi when he was stopped.
Kumar returned home with a warm greeting from relatives and friends and informed HT about the hardship he had to go through for over four days while attempting to explain his identity. He said that his harassment demonstrates the inadequacy of some countries’ intelligence services.
Kumar and his wife departed India at 9 p.m. on October 11 and arrived in Abu Dhabi at 11:20 p.m. Their connecting flight to Switzerland was scheduled for 3:15 a.m.
Praveen said, “Soon after we landed, two criminal investigation department officials (CID) from the UAE approached me. They showed me someone’s photo and asked if it was me. I told them that it was not my photo. They then asked me for my name, date of birth, passport details and other things. They seemed unconvinced and also did a retina test. Furthermore, they questioned me for about two hours”.
Kumar further stated that his boarding card and passport became invalid just as he was about to check in for his journey to Switzerland. He was told to wait once more before his wife checked in. “Five individuals arrived, including CID officers, and began questioning me as if I were a criminal who had committed fraud. They took me into custody and did not even let me talk to my wife,” he added.
Meanwhile, one of the CID officers also told him to urge his wife to return to India since she may be arrested for illegal immigration if she lingered in Abu Dhabi for more than 24 hours without a visa.
After making several requests, Kumar was finally able to reach the person who was sponsoring his trip after requesting one phone call from one of the authorities. After outlining the circumstances, he requested him to make plans for his wife’s homecoming.
On October 12, early in the morning, Kumar was transferred from his holding cell to a lock-up where he was housed with roughly 50 other detainees.
Kumar said, “They imprisoned me and fed me non-vegetarian jail meals despite the fact that they had no actual evidence that I was a criminal and that I am a vegetarian. For the remainder of my trip to Abu Dhabi, I just drank water, tea, and the occasional apple. For the following three days, I ate nearly nothing.”
Kumar was handcuffed and transported to Ras Al-Khaimah, which is around 300 kilometres from Abu Dhabi, on October 13 in order to appear before a magistrate. His possessions, excluding his phone and passport, were given to him during the transfer. He asked for one more call, telling his brother to report his situation to the police and look for assistance in India.
By this point, Kumar says, “I realised they may keep me for days unless the government in India intervened.” On October 14, Kumar was brought to the magistrate’s office, where he was referred to as Praveen Kumar, but all other information was incorrect.
“By now I knew that the officials were mistaking me for another criminal in Abu Dhabi who had my name and same date of birth, but all other details were different, and he probably hailed from Kerala. I explained to the judge that my passport details were completely different, and it was issued only in December 2016. They asked if I had committed financial fraud, but I said that I had come to Abu Dhabi for the first time in my life. They kept insisting that I should show my older passport,” he said.
A translator also requested information about his parents, his job title in India, and the name of his business. He was told to wait outside while the authorities’ group talked to one another. Around nine o’clock in the evening, after being transferred to another detention facility, Kumar was allowed to depart with his possessions. The officers informed him that his passport was with the CID team in Abu Dhabi when he inquired about it.
Around 11 p.m. that same evening, however, the authorities transported him to the airport, completed the necessary paperwork, and turned him over to the Abu Dhabi police. On October 15, at 7.30 p.m., after another day of waiting, he boarded a plane for Delhi.
“All this while, even after the confusion was cleared, I was kept in security and treated like a criminal. I was given non-vegetarian food despite knowing that I would not eat it. Only one of the CID officials later apologised for the mistake,” said Kumar.
Kumar said that while he was not informed about any intervention from the Indian government, he believes that the authorities would not have released him without pressure from the government and media in India.
“I am very thankful for the authorities here. I also hope that the Indian government takes some stern action so that innocent citizens are not harassed and treated like criminals without any proof,” Kumar added.