Family: American held in the Emirates over faked loans freed


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A U.S. citizen detained in the United Arab Emirates over faked loans totaling nearly $90,000 drawn in his name has been freed and left the country for his teaching job in Egypt, his family said early Friday.

Matthew Novak, 31, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, arrived in Cairo after being freed following his weekslong detention in the Emirates, his family said.

They declined to comment on the circumstances of his release. The state-run WAM news agency, which never reported his initial detention, carried no word of his release early Friday. The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Novak was stopped March 12 at Abu Dhabi International Airport during a layover while traveling from Thailand to Egypt, his family earlier said.

Authorities arrested him over seven loans taken out in his name in several areas of the UAE, a seven-emirate federation on the Arabian Peninsula, his family said.

Novak previously worked as a school teacher in Abu Dhabi from 2009 to 2012 before taking a teaching job in Thailand and later Cairo, his family said. He lost his U.S. passport in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, in 2010 and reported it missing to both the U.S. Embassy and local police there before receiving a replacement, his family said.

His family believes someone stole Novak’s passport and then used it to make the loans.

While liberal compared to other nations in the Gulf, the UAE considers defaulting on loans a criminal offense and incarcerates debtors to stop them from fleeing the country and to make them settle their accounts. As oil prices have dipped in recent months, some foreign workers in the region have found themselves out of a job and suddenly unable to make payments, effectively trapped overseas.

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