Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Criminal Complaints in the Corporate Context

It is a fact of life in Oman that sometimes commercial pressure is brought to bear on a party by the filing of a criminal complaint.

Arabic jurisprudence states that crimes are personal to the perpetrator, so a corporate entity cannot itself be the accused. Instead, the complaint is filed against individuals working for the entity in question. The approach taken by the police and Public Prosecutor is to identify the person or persons closest to the events which have occurred. For instance, when a child was injured in Oman at a playground due to a faulty slide, the criminal investigation was against the maintenance manager of the playground apparatus.

In some cases when a criminal complaint is filed against an expatriate, the latter has his or her passport confiscated at an early stage during the investigations by the police or Public Prosecutor. However, this is not always the case. In truth, the system is somewhat fluid.

In our experience, it is always vital to be very robust and thorough when defending anyone accused of a crime in Oman. Clearly, documentary evidence - if available - can often be extremely helpful, and we also commission a third-party expert report whenever we feel it is in our client's best interests. We also ensure that we are present whenever our clients are being interviewed.

Ultimately, if the Public Prosecutor is minded to do so, the complaint becomes a Criminal Court case. Whilst Oman has no codified rules about the burden of proof, the reality is that it is difficult to get a criminal conviction as there must be almost no doubt whatsoever that the accused has committed the offence. In other words, reasonable doubt would lead the Courts to adjudge that the accused was innocent.