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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

419 men hit Dubai ,conned many

Brazen scam: Conmen leave trail of misery in Dubai Details are now emerging of what could possibly be the most audacious and meticulously planned con-job to have hit the city in recent times Dubai: With a gala dinner invite in hand and dressed to the nines, several people turned up at a five star hotel ballroom on Tuesday, September 30. There was a hitch though. The event that was meant to “inspire creativity and honour relationships” never actually took place. Unknown to the guests, the organisers had fled the country days earlier, not just deserting the attendees but also leaving several UAE firms counting losses running into millions. As XPRESS puts the pieces together, details are now emerging of what could possibly be the most audacious and meticulously planned con-job to have hit the UAE (see below: Modus operandi). Some figures will boggle your mind: 43 rooms and six suites booked, and paid for, at the hotel for the gala and no one to show up. The same goes for hundreds of flights originating from USA, Azerbaijan, Thailand, India and Pakistan. “I am devastated. The whole deal was a camouflage to take kickbacks in cold hard cash,” says the sales director of a reputed tours and travel company which made the arrangements for the phony Dubai-based firm Spear International LLC and paid their Asian representatives Dh43,000 in commission. “They came to us saying they needed to organise flights and accommodation for an awards night and gala dinner to be attended by guests from all over the world,” adds the Egyptian whose total loss in the hotel and flight bookings exceeds Dh750,000. “It’s all gone down the drain as their cheques have bounced and the hotel has refused to refund me. Later, we also discovered that some flight tickets were availed but I have no clue who these passengers are.” Trail of victims Related Links Online fake degrees: XPRESS investigates Fake degree racket in UAE exposed His company is not the only one to have fallen prey. A Deira computer shop (Dh137,000), Al Nahda promotional goods supplier (Dh66,300) and a Karama office stationery dealer (Dh10,000) are among others in a growing list of victims who have similarly been handed dud cheques and the bogus gala dinner invite. “They seemed to have all the credentials including a proper website. Who would’ve thought it was all a set-up,” says Indian businesswoman Meenakshi Kumar, whose firm Axiom Gifts and Novelties supplied Spear International 10,200 T-shirts for Dh66,300 against two post dated cheques. She realised she was conned when the first cheque for 50 per cent of the amount bounced on October 2. “They later sold the T-shirts at half the price for cash but what angers me even more is that they had the cheeks to abuse me on phone just before switching off their phones and fleeing.” The loss is almost twice as much for Deira-based Kansas trading who supplied 500 1TB external hard drives worth Dh137,000 last fortnight. It’s not immediately clear where the disks eventually landed, but there is a strong suspicion they were resold at throwaway prices during Gitex. “We were certain we would take the cash on delivery but they got us into believing their cash cheque was good enough. When we reached the bank, we were told the account had no money,” says the Kansas’ Afghan manager Mohammad Hamid. Karama-based Indian stationary supplier CJ Franco, 49, who delivered A4 paper, files, ink cartridges and toner worth around Dh10,000 was given a cheque due on October 10, but he reckons it will turn out to be a dud. “My loss would’ve been manifold if I had accepted their second order to supply goods worth Dh100,000.” All victims XPRESS spoke to said Spear’s charade was so convincing they fell for it hook, line and sinker. “I visited their Al Nahda office several times and everything looked in place all the time,” recalls Meenakshi who has been in business for almost two decades. “I often went there unannounced and there were people working away at their desks and office boys running errands, just as in any company,” says the Egyptian tour operator, who like many others have now lodged a police complaint. When XPRESS visited Spear’s office in Al Nahda’s Platinum Centre building last week, doors were shut. All cellphone numbers of their staff remain switched off. All that there is by way of clues are bounced cheques, names such as Javed Hussain Bukhari, Osman Abdul Aziz, Paul which the conmen used and a commercial licence issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED) which shows that Spear was started by a UAE-based Indian national Ebrahim Mohammad in January 2013 in Naif. According to the passport copy, Mohammad hails from Jogeshwari, Mumbai. But for all you know the details could be fake. MODUS OPERANDI In a reprise of a scam, XPRESS reported in February, 2013, Spear International Trading LLC set up a website and a phony office in Platinum Business Centre, Al Nahda, Dubai earlier this year before approaching UAE business establishments for trade enquiries. In an act of pure evil genius, the con artists then quickly went about their job -- purchasing just about anything they could lay their hands on against post-dated dud cheques. Before the cheques could be presented in banks, the scamsters sold the goods at throwaway prices for cash and fled the country.