Fraudster who posed as Emirati prince to swindle investors out of millions arrested by FBI

Investigations by Khaleej Times show the dodgy schemes perpetuated by Tannous ensnared individuals across the globe


Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Thu 15 Feb 2024, 6:37 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Feb 2024, 9:17 PM

After years of posing as an Emirati prince and swindling investors out of millions of dirhams, the fraudulent activities of Alex Tannous, a 38-year-old Lebanese, finally came to an end last week. He was arrested by the FBI in San Antonio, Texas, US, upon his return from abroad for a child custody matter.

He was promptly ordered to be held without bond and appeared in federal court in San Antonio last Friday, where he faces a potential 20-year prison sentence if convicted.

According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed by the FBI, Tannous had long masqueraded as a businessman and diplomat hailing from the UAE, boasting close connections to Emirati royalty. However, he was revealed to be a skilled con artist, adept at swindling unknowing victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“In reality, Tannous was a skilled con artist who used his gifts of persuasion to bilk unknowing victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars," the affidavit stated. "To secure the financing, Tannous told his victims to pay thousands of dollars to him via entities he owned and controlled.”

Investigations by Khaleej Times show the dodgy schemes perpetuated by Tannous extended far beyond San Antonio, ensnaring individuals across the globe.

Marc De Spiegelerie from Belgium, one such victim, expressed a sense of vindication upon learning of Tannous's arrest. "It may not bring back the 700,000 euros (Dh2.77 million) or the 10 years of my life, but the possibility of him spending the next two decades behind bars brings solace to me and all other victims," De Spiegelerie said in a message to Khaleej Times.

Recalling his ordeal, De Spiegelerie recounted wiring funds to a local bank in Dubai after being convinced to invest in what Tannous purported to be a lucrative project in Doha, Qatar, "This was in 2012. He hosted us in their Palm Jumeirah house and claimed he was friends with the royals," said De Spiegelerie, who later filed a case against Alex in Dubai Courts.

Similarly, Omar Y Abouhalala from Libya stated that he also approached Dubai Courts, alleging that he was duped out of Dh1.15 million.

One of Alex's entities was named Equico Enterprises Inc. According to the FBI affidavit, he asserted that he was an Emirati official assigned to identify US companies suitable for UAE ventures. Additionally, he purportedly proposed a joint venture with a software firm owner to establish ghost kitchens, claiming access to millions from an Emirati economic development fund. Seeking $100,000, Tannous received $70,000 in four payments between June and August 2021, transferred to an Equico account. Despite receiving substantial sums, the promised ventures failed to materialise.

Meanwhile, Alex, listed as a World Peace Ambassador for the UAE on one website and touted as the founder and chairman of a Dubai-based conglomerate on another, had a different reality in court records. They show that he depended on allowances from his parents and his now-former wife's earnings and credit. In early 2021, he even filed for bankruptcy to evade investors seeking to recover their funds.


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