Two executive managers involved in a $200-million investment scam have recently each been sentenced to more than 500 years in jail by the Dubai Court of Misdemeanors.
The criminal case covered more than 500 complaints filed by investors, in online foreign currency trading, against the two Indian men, including the company owner and a manager.
The criminal case, the pair faced, goes in parallel with hundreds of civil lawsuits lodged by fraud victims seeking to recover their money from the investment company the duo ran with others.
The courts examined only the complaints that had been referred by the police and investigated later by the public prosecution. But the number of follow-up civil cases is most likely to increase.
Barney Almazar, chief legal consultant at the Philippine embassy in the UAE, giving free legal assistance to a group of about 100 who have fallen victim to the fraud, told Khaleej Times that he was just following up on their civil lawsuits. "The sentence of 500 years in jail shows the gravity of the offences the defendants committed. But the court decision is not yet final and it could be reversed upon appeal."
The Filipinos, who sought legal advice from Almazar, had invested a minimum of $20,000 each in one account. But others had their money used in a dozen accounts a time.
It is understood that the victims were promised high monthly yields in the foreign currency online trading, but with the increasing number of depositors, the company started to have financial problems and could no more deliver the expected revenues. With the defaults on returns payment, hundreds of complainants filed reports to recover their original capital and the interests.
A special section at Al Barsha Police was swamped with such criminal complaints.
"There could be pending reports and others that are being investigated by the police and public prosecution. It is an ongoing criminal case with hundreds of divergent civil lawsuits," Almazar pointed out.
A Filipino resident, who referred to his financial ordeal with the trading office as a traumatising experience, said he was just looking forward to recover his savings he had put in there. "We were promised monthly yields of 120 per cent. We did receive profits for some time. At some point, the company defaulted on paying us while still keeping our deposits. Now I just want to go back home with my family. But I want my capital and the due returns."
He added that he had a dozen friends who had similar complaints.
Another Filipino resident said he had invested about half a million dirhams with that office. "I knew about that form of investment from friends. I joined in 2014 and indeed received high profits, exceeding 100 per cent, up to April 2016. The company kept reassuring us not to worry in e-mails claiming it was facing problems with banks."
He recounted that his communication with the staff stopped after the owner was arrested. "The company owner's wife got away with documents before disappearing.
"I just demand those traders to fulfil their obligations as per the contract I had signed with them."
He added he hoped to get his full rights back as he has faith in the justice system here.
The office the duo ran on Sheikh Zayed Road was ordered closed down by the authorities in 2016, following fraud reports by residents who suffered huge financial losses.
The pair remains detained at Al Aweer Central Jail since the closure of their business.