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Former Etihad Airways cabin crew member faces jail time for defaulting on $100K crypto loan

A former flight attendant of Etihad Airways is now facing jail time because he can no longer afford the repayments on his loan after being laid off

A former Etihad Airways cabin crew member is being sent to jail for failure to make repayments on a loan he used to invest in Bitcoin at the height of the cryptocurrency craze.

Having recently lost his job in a wave of redundancies caused by COVID-19, the unnamed French national revealed he is being sent to jail because he can no longer afford to repay a 338,000 AED ($100,000) loan he used to invest in Bitcoin in 2017.

The French national, who is 34 years old, says that he is expected to pay back $3,320 every month until the end of 2021 to clear his loan.

The former cabin crew member is in a serious situation because failing to repay a debt is a criminal offence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and debtors could be sent to jail for up to three years.

Detained in Dubai, a British Charity which provides assistance in criminal cases across the UAE, says they have witnessed a crackdown from banks in criminal enforcement.

In the past, expat residents have been able to leave for their home country to renegotiate their debts in relative safety. However, Radha Stirling, the Chief Executive of Detained in Dubai says that there has been an “upswing in the amount of Interpol threats” for expat debtors who choose to return home to avoid unpaid loans.

“Using Interpol to detain and extradite debtors to the UAE people is not legal, but the UAE banks know that most victims don’t know how to fight the Red Notice or avoid it altogether. In fact, the first many former expats learn about Red Notices is when they are detained at an airport.” Stirling explained.

The Etihad flight attendant’s story, who has chosen to remain anonymous, began in late 2017 when he took out the massive loan with the Emirates Islamic Bank to make his first investment in Bitcoin. During this time, the cryptocurrency was at an all-time high; however, within less than a year he claims that he had lost 85 percent on his initial investment.

In 2019, news revealed that potentially hundreds of Emirates cabin crew had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a Ponzi-style investment scam. The investors were promised that if the invested over $100,00, they would get returns of between 5 and 20 percent.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to significant layoffs within Etihad Airways.

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