Atlas Jewellery owner, daughter detained in Dubai
Empty display window outside the Atlas Jewellery shop at Al Karama in Dubai.
Dubai - Both of them arrested after a number of banks lodged complaints over bounced cheques.
The shine has worn off Atlas Jewellery after its owner was detained by police on August 23. Khaleej Times enquiries revealed he is being held at a detention centre in Bur Dubai. The Indian businessman's daughter has also been detained in the women's section over bounced cheques.
Police said the 73-year-old Indian businessman, M.M.R., was arrested after a number of banks lodged complaints against him. All efforts to reach M.M.R. on Sunday were in vain as his phone was switched off.
So far, the police have received five complaints against M.M.R. from different banks. Two complaints were lodged at Rafaa police station, two at Naif and one at Bur Dubai.The complaint lodged at Bur Dubai was for issuing dud cheques worth Dh34 million.
The major retail jewellery chain in the UAE also appears to have limited, or no stock of gold across their stores in the UAE. A visit to the Deira, Karama and Bur Dubai branches of the group showed only handful of gold and diamond jewellery on display.
Staff at the gold outlets run by the group said they had no knowledge about the owner's whereabouts. In the Karama branch discounts of between 50 and 60 per cent on 18K gold jewellery were being offered to customers.
At the Bur Dubai outlet, only watches were sold. "We heard that the owner has some problems with banks. Due to the fluctuating prices of gold and the financial problems, we had to return the gold to our suppliers."
The group has allegedly defaulted on payments to 20 banks. It allegedly owes Dh600 million to banking institutions in both the UAE and India.
A Bank of Baroda official in Dubai said Atlas Group owed the bank Dh70 million, the biggest chunk. "The group owes Bank of Baroda Dh70 million. The banks have together formed an informal steering committee and will come to a decision on the jewellery group next week," said the official on condition of anonymity.
Offer of help
The troubled jewellery retailer is a member of the Dubai Gold and Diamond Jewellery Group. Tawhid Abdullah, chairman of Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group, said the trade body was willing to intervene to find solutions to the financial woes of Atlas.
"However, we have not directly heard from Atlas Jewellery or from its creditor banks. Nobody has approached us asking for our intervention. We would like to help, and are happy to do so. But we need to get a clear picture," said Abdullah.
He said the trade was not fully aware of the circumstances which had led to this situation. "We also do not know the current situation and Atlas owner M.M.R. is not reachable by phone. From what I understand, there is no bad intention on the part of the owner."
"If someone wanted to cheat, he could have left the country months ago." The gold and jewellery industry was healthy and that it could withstand "isolated incidents like this", he said.
"If someone is in trouble, it is not the right thing to put him behind bars. He should he given time to sort out the issues. M.M.R. enjoyed goodwill and owns a chain of some 60 plus outlets and other assets," said Abdullah.
"I do not say that I am not disappointed by the incident. I feel there is a chance or there may be solutions to tide over the crisis. These include finding a strategic partner or selling some of his (M.M.R's) assets or taking the creditor banks as equity partners. As a group, we are ready to help out a long-time member. There are several solutions. But for all these we need to sit and talk with the banks and the troubled company."
A household name
Atlas Jewellery group is a household name among members of the Malayalee community. It opened its first outlet in Kuwait City in the 1980s. The company moved its headquarters to the UAE in the early 90s. It now has over 48 stores in the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Managing Director of Atlas Jewellery India Nandakumaran Puthezath told Khaleej Times in an email: "Atlas Jewellery India is a company in which M.M.R. has invested and is the majority shareholder and chairman. Since he is the non-executive chairman, we have no reason to be in touch with him on a daily basis."
M.M.R., a banker-turned-jewellery trader, has played various roles in life as in the movies he made. He produced several films, including the blockbuster Vaishali in Malayalam. He also acted in several Malayalam films. He set up his Dubai jewellery outlet in 1989. In the late 90s, he diversified into the real estate and healthcare sectors. He owns a hospital in Oman and his daughter runs a clinic in Dubai under the banner Atlas Star. - firstname.lastname@example.org
TROUBLED TIMES ... At the Atlas Jewellery showroom in Bur Dubai on Sunday, there were very few items on display. Many display units were virtually empty, while others had watches and some light gold chains, among other items.