UAE inventor's Smart Cheque set to take the bounce out of dud cheques

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By  David Cass Published  October 22, 2002

A UAE inventor, Moosa Easa Al Amri, could be the man who gives the world at least a partial solution to money laundering, which might also make a sizeable dent in credit card fraud.

The prime target of his recently patented invention, however, is the bouncing cheque. The latest figures revealed by the UAE Central Bank show that, of an annual turnover in cheque transactions of Dhs 237 billion in 2001, around five percent bounced. That amounts to Dhs 11.85 million.

Now Moosa is preparing to market what he calls the Smart Cheque, having obtained the worldwide patent and the first patent ever issued in the UAE.

He revealed it at last week's Gitex exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre and reports a huge interest, not least from Dubai’s police chief, Dhahi Khalfan Thani, who is well known in the corridors of power for his mission to clean up a banking system which he believes is not doing enough to tackle the problem of bad cheques.

Moosa reports, “He came to the stand and demanded to know exactly how the system works. I demonstrated it on a real swipe card terminal connected to the Central Bank computer, which showed immediately that my account had enough funds to honour it. I think he was quite impressed.”

In fact, Moosa is a lawyer "But," he says "my hobby is trademark and patent law, which I have found most useful in respect of obtaining the Smart Cheque patents.

“I also enjoy thinking in two very different ways, which helps my inventing. I try to think like a cheat and then, as a lawyer, I try to think of ways of combating that crook.”

It is now over three years since an air journey gave him the inspiration. “I had already decided that the answer to bouncing cheques and money laundering was to do something to the cheque itself, which would make it safe for a business or bank to accept. Then I noticed the swipe terminals at the boarding gate and thought, ‘if the airlines can to that to make a boarding card secure, why can’t I apply the same theory to a cheque?’”

The answer, he discovered, was a plastic strip, which could be read by all existing swipe card readers.

He quickly moved to the patent stage, obtaining the UAE’s first ever patent, and then passed all 44 criteria required in three different categories for the issue of a world wide patent.

The cheque itself is simplicity itself to use. Once it is written in the normal way the beneficiary (be it a retail outlet, bank or other business) just swipes it through a normal credit card reader, the owner enters a PIN code and the transaction will be cleared, or not, depending on whether there are sufficient funds to cover it. The cheque can even be configured to hold funds in an account in the case of issuing a post-dated cheque, a common practice in the wholesale trade throughout the Gulf region.

“It also saves a great deal of time and money in the event that a business, from which you are buying, wants a certified cheque. It currently takes an hour at the bank and costs 100 dirhams before you even go to complete the transaction. With Smart Cheque everything is done by a series of computers through the swipe reader. A Smart Cheque can even be endorsed electronically to a third party with the funds guaranteed.”

He expects that the first issues will cost around 80 fils each, falling rapidly as they become more accepted. He does not want to be personally involved in production. “I don’t want to print cheques,” he said, “I want to licence the system. It will be up to the banks to produce the cheques and earn a percentage of the transaction cost, which would be paid by the beneficiary because it is only right that they should be paying for the certainty that it will not bounce.”

Read the full feature on Mr Al Amri and his invention in the next edition of Arabian Business, out in eary November.

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