Police Probe Pyramid Scam as 200 Fall Prey

DUBAI — More than 200 people of various nationalities, including Indians, Syrians and Egyptians, are believed 
to have fallen prey to a loan scheme linked to a pyramid scam and police have begun investigations to unravel the fraud.

By Lily B. Libo-on And Amira Agarib

Published: Sun 20 Dec 2009, 11:01 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:29 AM

The alleged scam, on an Emirati national’s website, which claimed it could extend loans to members, was uncovered after 22 Filipinos affected by it approached the Philippine consulate in Dubai this week to seek assistance.

The 22 Filipino came forward after many of them were charged by the same company for bounced cheques. When they approached the police to file complaints, they claim that their side was not investigated because of the outstanding bounced cheques.

However, Lieutenant-Colonel Abdul Rahim Shafi, director of Organised Crimes Department, Dubai Police, told Khaleej Times police were looking into the matter. “The Dubai Public Prosecution has instructed the Naif Police to interrogate the owner of the company and accept all people’s complaints against him,” he said.

The complainants told Khaleej Times and the Philippine Consulate that they learned of the company through an online advertisement offering financial assistance.

They said they were offered loans, which they could use to settle their credit cards if they would register and bring new members. Members were offered a certain sum for getting others to join the scheme.

“Yet, as we continued to bring in new people as well as pay our monthly amortisation, the remaining amount was not released to us,” one of the complainants said. “When we started doubting the company and stopped getting more people to join, the firm started depositing our blank cheques and got us into trouble.”

Philippine Consul-General Benito B. Valeriano said he had asked all those involved to execute sworn statements, which he would take with his endorsements to the Dubai and Sharjah authorities to seek redressal for the victims as many had lost their jobs after they spent time in jail.

“I will ask the Sharjah and Dubai governments to look into these cases,” he said.

Other victims and consular officials could not be reached.

Eleven of the 22 complainants have sought the services of Law Firm International Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Ian Joseph Uy, one of the firm’s consultant, told Khaleej Times that the clients were asked to sign a Special Power of Attorney which they did not understand as it was in Arabic. They were also asked to bring with them a guarantor who was required to issue a blank cheque and seven referees who were required to issue two blank cheques.

Uy said the company, which is a debt collection agency, argued that it was collecting the money for payment of credit cards and had photocopies of the victims’ credit cards.

“We checked with the Dubai Economic Department and it emerged that the firm was not licensed to extend loans, which is a violation of the federal laws,” Uy said.

The complainants said they were not aware that the company would demand more money when they registered.

“The firm did not give us the remaining amount even though we had met all the requirements,” a complainant said, on behalf of the others.

“When we decided to stop bringing new people to join the scheme, the suspect gave the police the security cheques leading many to be imprisoned,” he added, asking not to be named.

Olivia Merino, one of the complainants, and the others accompanied by Advocate Abdullah Omran of the Law Firm International Advocates & Legal Consultants, filed their complaints with the Naif Police station on December 7. However, police had Merino listed as the subject of a bounced cheque complaint from the suspect. “Instead of accepting our complaint, the police brought me to Sharjah even after I explained that the cheque was given in the suspect’s office in Dubai. I spent a night in jail as he deposited my blank cheque by putting an amount of Dh28,000 on it,” Merino said.

Her lawyer went to the Sharjah judge and filed for temporary release vouching for her. She was released the next day and filed a complaint with the prosecution on December 9. Uy said the prosecution issued a resolution that it would forward the complaint to the Naif Police Station within two days for investigation. “Today also, we have filed a complaint at the Naif Police Station,” Merino said.

Each of the victims was asked to issue two blank cheques and said they did not know what amount was written on these until they were arrested and jailed when the cheques bounced.

Isabel Alcantara said she was jailed in Dubai for two days because her Dh19,000 security cheque was deposited in April. She paid the court a fine of Dh25,000 and was cleared. “Now, my second cheque of Dh40,000 has again been deposited even though I got two people to join the scheme, who paid the firm Dh24,000,” Alcantara said.

“I got only a Dh25,000 loan from the firm.”

Pedro Comiling, who was referred to the scheme by a friend, said, “My promissory note mentioned only Dh15,000 but the firm put Dh20,000 on my blank cheque. I never received anything from it.” Lt-Col. Shafi said all police officers were instructed to take prompt action when receiving a complaint from any person even if a case was filed against the complainant.

“The police will investigate each case separately,” he said.

He added that to enable the police to take a decision and to verify the type of crime, the complainant should bring their documents and explain the matter to the police.

The consul-general warned all Filipinos not to fall prey to suspect financial schemes. “If you need loans, go to banks and not to any organisation or individuals from private companies you do not know,” he said. “Never sign any document in Arabic without obtaining its translation in English.”



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