UAE: Investors left in lurch as company owner, staff 'disappear' with millions

Blue Chip suspends payouts; Bollywood star Sonu Sood denies endorsement

by

Mazhar Farooqui

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Ehtisham (left) and Saiprava (right)
Ehtisham (left) and Saiprava (right)

Published: Wed 15 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 May 2024, 5:53 PM

[Editor's Note: Bluechip Computer Systems LLC and Bluechip Real Estate Brokers are not associated with the Blue Chip Group mentioned in the article.]

The third-floor office of the Blue Chip Group in Bur Dubai's Al Jawahar Centre bustled with activity until last week. Dressed in suits, dozens of representatives pitched investments in various sectors like the equity market, gold mining, cryptocurrency, and real estate.


With a $70-million portfolio and over 700 clients as stated on their website, Blue Chip offered a tempting deal: a three per cent monthly return on a minimum investment of $10,000, locked in for 18 months. But the promise turned sour as payouts suddenly stopped, leaving investors with bounced cheques and unanswered calls.

Now, the office stands empty as investors scramble for answers, only to find the owner and its 70-odd staff members vanished. When Khaleej Times visited Blue Chip’s office last week, it was deserted, with a throng of irate investors filling the space.


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Investors share anguish

Among them was an Indian expat lamenting the potential loss of Dh1 million. Beside him stood Blue Chip’s former relationship manager, Valentino, who claimed to have invested Dh55,000 into the venture, now urgently needed for her father’s surgery. "I am devastated," Valentino said. "My clients are calling me, and I don’t know what to tell them. My dad is in hospital and we need this money.”

Others, like Maheej (Dh70,000) and Saiprava (Dh36,700), both from India, had leveraged loans against their credit cards to invest. Some, like Ehtisham from New Delhi, went as far as selling their properties to capitalise on the opportunity. On May 9, Ehtisham took a day off from his job at a shipping company in Ras Al Khaimah to visit Blue Chip’s office and search for clues about his $132,000 (Dh485,000) given over several months. "If this money is gone, I'll be ruined. It was everything I had," he said, his voice choked with emotion.

An excel sheet shared with Khaleej Times reveals investments exceeding $17 million from just 90 individuals.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Salim M, who invested the equivalent of Dh492,000 in US dollars. “Our WhatsApp Groups alone have 345 investors. Consider the total if we account for all of them. And this list isn't exhaustive; we haven't reached all the investors yet.”

Multiple cases of bounced cheques have been reportedly filed against the company and a travel ban has been placed on its founder-CEO.

"Putting my trust in Blue Chip seemed like a wise decision at the time," said A.K. who prefers to be identified by only his initials. “But now I feel betrayed. It's a tough lesson learned."

Bollywood star speaks up

Investors alleged that they were misled to invest in various verticals of Blue Chip, influenced by celebrity endorsements and business awards.

One such vertical, the Blue Chip token, was launched at a five-star hotel in Dubai in July 2022, with Bollywood actor Sonu Sood as the chief guest.

The actor has, however, denied endorsing the company. Speaking to Khaleej Times over the phone from India, Sonu said: “When we attend an event it doesn’t mean we are endorsing it."

The actor-humanitarian said he’s “aware of the issue” and is “trying to help investors". “We will leave no stone unturned to help those who have suffered because of this,” he said. “Let it be known I am with the investors, not with the owners. Everyone should get their hard-earned money back."

Blue Chip started as commercial brokers before foraying into other sectors in subsequent years.

Investors said they were receiving monthly or quarterly payouts on the basis of their agreements until March 2024.

Panic ensued when their cheques started bouncing, followed by "important announcement" e-mails from the company on April 15 and April 20, citing regulatory issues and suspending further payouts.

Assurances were made that refunds would be processed through “legitimate channels within 7-10 days” via relationship managers. However, on May 2, Blue Chip sent another e-mail offering refunds plus 10 per cent through a trading wallet provided investors engaged in minimum trading activity for six months.

Investors are now alleging foul play. Many said they would rather have the money in their bank accounts and that too immediately. “We didn’t sign up for any trading wallet,” said an IT engineer who invested $30,000 (Dh110,000) in 2021. Another investor remarked that if the company's intentions were fair, they would have faced the investors instead of fleeing.

Blue Chip is currently requesting investors to "schedule a prior appointment" before visiting their “office to discuss any queries related to the refund process”. An e-mail states, "To smoothen the refund process, it is necessary for all parties to book an appointment. Without any prior appointment, it will be difficult for the team to attend you.” A link has been provided to book and appointment for “personalised attention”, however the link does not work.

No official from Blue Chip was available for comment and messages sent to them remain unanswered.

Deleted from online tracking tool

Until Tuesday, Blue Chip Group of Companies was listed on Myfxbook, an online tool primarily used for tracking and analysing performance in the forex market, only to be mysteriously removed on Wednesday.

The company is not licensed by the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), the federal financial regulatory agency in the UAE.

Farhat Ali Khan of Dubai-based Century Maxim International (CMI), specialising in commercial and financial disputes, emphasised that the company’s business strictly falls under the category of regulated financial services. “SCA guidelines clearly state that no financial activity may be practised without obtaining a licence and/or approval from the authority,” said Ali.

Farhat Ali Khan
Farhat Ali Khan

“Investors are advised to consider reporting the matter to authorities and filing a claim before a court,” he said.

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