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Uber, Careem Halt Abu Dhabi Cars Amid Driver-Arrest Reports

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  • Local police have arrested 50 drivers and impounded 70 cars
  • Ride-sharing services aim to restart operations after setback

Uber Technologies Inc. and its Middle East competitor Careem Networks suspended services in the capital of the United Arab Emirates for a fourth day, amid reports that police have arrested drivers and impounded cars.

“At this point, we will not resume services in Abu Dhabi until we have further clarity on the matter and reassurances that partners will not be at risk,” Uber said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday, adding that none of its drivers were arrested. Both companies described the suspension as temporary, with Careem saying in a statement that it expects to resume its operations within a few days.

Police arrested 50 drivers working for limousine companies and impounded 70 cars, Abu Dhabi-based The National reported late Sunday. Mohamed Al Qamzi, general manager of TransAD, the city’s taxi regulator, said the companies had on occasion contravened regulations by offering trips at a lower price than licensed limousines, the newspaper reported. A spokesman for the Abu Dhabi government’s Executive Council wasn’t able to comment.

“We received complete assurance from the authorities on the legal standing of our operations in Abu Dhabi, Christian Eid, Careem’s vice president of marketing said in the statement. “We have been reassured that this is not a legality or safety matter for Careem.”

Uber, founded in 2009, has faced opposition in almost every country in which it operates. Taxi drivers in Paris clashed with police during a protest against it earlier this year, while governments in Spain, Thailand and elsewhere have at one time or another banned the service, which allows users to book rides from their phones. In Saudi Arabia, some municipal and business-lobby leaders have said such services are illegal or, at least, need closer oversight.

The controversy hasn’t dented the companies’ ability to raise billions of dollars in funding. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund this year invested $3.5 billion in San Francisco-based Uber. Dubai-based Careem last year received a $60 million investment from Abraaj Capital Ltd. and others to help it expand in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Careem, founded in 2012, operates in about 30 cities.