A PE teacher from Burnley is at the centre of an alleged million-pound currency exchange scam in Dubai.
Katie Blaymire, 32, moved to the UAE to take up a post at an international school nearly a decade ago.
But she now stands accused of ripping off scores of expats including dozens of Emirates cabin crew and pilots.
They claim she was the front for an unofficial money exchange operation which offered better rates than banks.
Foreign workers heading home after being laid off due to the pandemic used the scheme to avoid bank transaction charges when swapping money into their own currency.
But victims say more than a hundred people have now complained to police that they never received their money.
A British pilot lost £11,000 while a Spanish colleague lost £22,000 when he tried to send money to Madrid to pay for his father’s funeral after he died from coronavirus.
UK businessman Valy Ossman, 50, lost £42,000 he was trying to exchange to open a restaurant.
He said: “She has a reputation for targeting expats - she needs to be stopped.”
And an Aussie hostess who says she lost £6,500, added: “I want her brought to justice.”
But in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Blaymire claimed she was a victim of organised criminals higher up the chain.
She said: “I might be the face of it but I am not the person who had all the dealings with the money. I have tried to refund people out of my own money but I have had death threats. I want to get back to the UK to clear my name and because I don’t feel safe. But I am stuck here and all my bank accounts are frozen.
“I am not justifying it because it’s not justifiable what happened but I feel like I am not going to get any sympathy.”
Blaymire – a well-known figure on the Dubai party scene – was born and brought up in Lancashire but decided to emigrate after her mother Suzanne died in 2008 aged 50.
She moved to the UAE in 2011 after landing a job as a PE teacher at a school which taught a British curriculum.
When her contract ended after five years she left to become a self-employed swimming teacher, giving lessons to the children of wealthy locals in their own pools.
She said she became involved in the money exchange operation when she received a message on Facebook.
She said: “Someone messaged me asking if I was looking for work.
“It’s quite normal for people to say on Facebook that they have Emirati Dirhams and want to swap them for another currency. Someone needs to swap the other way so they agree a rate.
“It’s not legal but it’s normal.
“Once I started working on it people would say, for example, I have got £2000 in Dirhams and I need the money in my UK account.
“They would give me the money which would get picked up by a driver then the money would be transferred to them.
“The rates were good and there were no problems to start with - it was just the ones at the end, and then it snowballed.
"I didn’t realise until things started going wrong.”
Businessman Mr Ossman said he lost £42,000 after using Blaymire to exchange money to expand his upmarket kebab business.
He launched a social media appeal for other alleged victims to come forward and said he has received more than 100 responses from people claiming to have lost around £1million.
He said: “To have been conned is not a nice thing to admit and I have done my best to make sure I am the last one.
“I want to spread it as far and wide as I can to put a stop to it.
“However, even in the last two to three weeks, I’ve been contacted by people who have fallen victim to her.”
The Sun has seen documents showing he transferred three lump sums totalling £42,000 to Blaymire in May.
He added: “She seemed genuine. She said she was pregnant and was looking to get rid of dirhams for sterling so she could return to her husband in the UK.
“I needed money to set up my restaurant and swapping cash this way would save thousands - a good deal for both.
“I had to send it over in three batches. It all seemed fine - what could possibly go wrong?
“But then she disappeared and was uncontactable.
“I spent two weeks trying to reach her, two weeks of stress and sleepless nights before I finally accepted what she’d done.
“I finally found the courage to tell some friends what I’d done and they broke it to me that she had a reputation for targeting expats.”
An Australian air hostess, who did not want to be named, said she lost the equivalent of £6,500, after trying to send money home to use as a deposit for a house.
She told The Sun: “I just want her brought to justice. This needs to stop.
“It seems like some victims will get their money back, sadly I don’t think I’m one of them.”
A Spanish pilot said he lost £22,000 trying to send money home to pay for his father’s funeral.
The 37-year-old dad of three, who saw a post from Blaymire in an airline chat group, said: “My father died two days before his 68th birthday so it has been a terrible time for me.
“I needed to send euros home so I got in touch with her and assumed she was also crew, so I trusted her.”
He hoped to save 250 euros in bank fees by exchanging Dh99,800 - but the 25,000 euros which he had been told would be transferred to his account in Madrid never arrived.
He added: “The woman met my wife and kids and was very playful with them. I could never expect her to turn out the way she did.”
A British pilot said: “I entrusted her with £50,000 in the hope of getting a good exchange rate on dollars. But she disappeared.”
A Belgian cabin crew member said he had transferred £20,000 in local currency to her account in April but still hasn’t received the euros transfer.
And a French airline worker is still waiting for his money having handed over the equivalent of £18,000 in cash at a coffee shop in March.
Blaymire is currently stuck in Dubai after a travel ban was imposed on her following a civil court case.
A business associate had loaned her £12,000 but when she tried to repay him the cheque bounced.
A court imposed a repayment plan and placed her on the no-fly list until the debt is repaid.
She blamed people further up the money exchange network for the cash that had vanished.
She said she used £100,000 of her own money to repay some victims and claimed there were only eight outstanding who were owed around £80,000.
Blaymire said: “A lot of people I refunded out of my own money. But that just made things worse because they would tell others: ‘Blackmail her or threaten her and you will get your money back’.
“I have had death threats and my family in the UK have been threatened.
“I haven’t been arrested or even been spoken to by the police. These are just allegations.
“I am stuck here now and I have to be very careful what I say about this country. I am unsure what I can do to clear my name without implicating myself.
“My plan was to come back to the UK and meet with the police for two reasons – one to clear my name and two, I don’t feel safe.
“I regret moving here now because I have seen the dark side of Dubai. I don’t see any good in it. I can’t really say anything negative because I’m still here but there are a lot of horror stories.
“You are scared to say what it is really like because you are not sure of the ramifications.”
She lives alone in Dubai and said she split with her partner, an English financier, when the allegations first arose and when she was pregnant with his child.
She said he has left the UAE to take up a finance job elsewhere.
Blaymire said she gave birth by emergency caesarean to her daughter 12 weeks prematurely and the tot remains intensive care.
But in another twist, her victims question whether even that is a lie.
The Spanish pilot said: “I was sure she was pregnant, but looking back now it was all a lie to convince me she was harmless.”
She declined to say when the baby was born but responded: “Everyone jumps on the bandwagon – ‘she’s not really pregnant’. I was. Do I need to do a pregnancy test?”
For now she remains in Dubai as her alleged victims continue to press the authorities to launch a criminal investigation. They fear the local police will treat it as a civil matter rather than a crime.
When Blaymire tried to fly out of the county at Christmas she was stopped by the authorities because of the travel ban and thrown in jail.
She was released when she repaid part of the outstanding debt in the bounced cheque case.
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