Friend flees, leaves Lankan family drowning in debt

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Friend flees, leaves Lankan family drowning in debt

Dubai - In 2010, Sri-Lankan toy seller, Pathiraja Wasam Stanley, acted as a guarantor to a German friend who was struggling to repay debts of Dh230,000 to an old business partner.

By Kelly Clarke

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Published: Tue 1 Mar 2016, 8:30 PM

A struggling businessman who says a debt-riddled friend sold him a "sinking dream", is warning others to be more vigilant when it comes to 'too good to be true offers'.
In 2010, Sri-Lankan toy seller, Pathiraja Wasam Stanley, acted as a guarantor to a German friend who was struggling to repay debts of Dh230,000 to an old business partner.
Despite not having the cash in his account, Stanley was assured by the friend that he would return to Germany, sell his assets, and return to the UAE to pay off the debt.
Eventually agreeing to sign the cheque, Stanley's wife, Anusha Manori Alwis, told Khaleej Times he did so on the promise that the duo would start a new promotions business in the UAE, following his return.
More than five years on, and with all contact cut off between the trio in 2011, they said he is still nowhere to be found.
Now, the couple and their three children remain in limbo despite all criminal cases against her husband closed.
"From 2009 to 2012 my husband was in and out of jail because of this debt. He was already struggling to pay loans following the financial crash in 2008, but this man increased our burden."
 By signing on the cheque, despite being under the pretence that his friend would return to settle the debt, Stanley inadvertently pledged his own assets when the original debtor - his friend - failed to return to the UAE.
"He sold my husband a sinking dream, he played a cunning game," Alwis said.
Earlier this month, the family's visas expired. To renew all five would mean having to renew her husband's trade licence - which will cost about Dh30,000.
"The trade licence was not paid in 2014, 2015 or this year because of the financial difficulties we were facing. We need to pay the arrears for three years, at Dh10,000 a year."
And that is the only way they can renew the visas, she said.
Paying school fees a struggle
On top of this, Alwis said they are now left struggling to pay their children's school fees. Mother to 12- and 9-year-old girls and a 7-year-old boy, the fees were last settled in December.
"Now from January to June this year we are due to pay Dh2,100 per month for the younger two and Dh3,800 a month for my eldest. We have not received their report cards because the fees have not been paid."
For Alwis, the worst-case scenario would be to pull her children out of school and to return to Sri Lanka.
"My eldest is so smart. She is our only hope so we want to give her a good education here."
But with her husband's passport still with the public prosecution, she said they are scared to retrieve it in fear of a civil case being brought against them.
"My husband served several stints in jail for the business loans he struggled to pay and for the cheque he signed on behalf of his German friend which bounced. After paying back a Dh50,000 bank loan, he was eventually absolved from this punishment in 2015 and the criminal case is now closed."
But the local man whom the absconding German owed Dh230,000, she said, may open a civil case against her husband again
For now, the family is living in a one-bed hall in Karama and is getting by on basics.
The hope is that they can raise enough money to renew their trade licence so as to renew their visas.
"My husband was conned. Yes, he had his own issues with business loans but this so called friend of ours just got us deeper and deeper in debt. We were left to deal with his debt."
Khaleej Times tried contacting the German man in question through the original email the trio was communicating on, however it appears the account has been closed.

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