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Millions wiped out in trading scam.

Abu Dhabi: A trading scam worth millions has hit Abu Dhabi after a bogus company shut shop last week duping dozens of traders.

At least 30 businessmen - at the last count - have been conned by Mussafah-based company, Najm Alwafa Electromechanical Contracting that bought goods worth millions from them against dud cheques.

Their modus operandi is much similar to the other trading scams XPRESS had exposed previously involving Dubai firms, Ronnington Technical Services and Steelite Electrical and Mechanical Engineering last year.

Najm Alwafa won over the trust of their clients by making cash payments for the first order. Then bulk orders were placed by issuing postdated cheques. And one fine day, the company and its staff vanished leaving a trail of dud cheques and millions in loss for the victims.

Indian businessman Aamir, whose company supplied Dh182,000 worth of steel plates , PVC Pipes and other building materials to Alwafa said they did not doubt foul play because the company looked perfect in papers.

"They gave us their trading license copy, passport copies of the local partner and that of the Indian owner. And their bank account showed a good cash flow," said Aamir.

He said an upfront cash payment of Dh36,000 was made after placing the order. "The rest of Dh 146,000 was issued as a 30 days postdated cheque."

But things started going wrong when the purchasing officer stopped responding to their calls. "Initially we thought, it could be because of the Ramadan timings. But from last Friday, the mobile numbers of the staff we knew were switched off. That is when we realized we got conned," said Aamir.

By Saturday, the list of victims was going up every hour. More people who had fallen into this well-orchestrated scam were rushing to Alwafa's office in Mussafah Industrial area behind UBL Bank.

But the office was already closed, and all the goods stored in the company's warehouse have already been emptied.

"I lost around Dh 1.7 million. I do not know how I can reclaim my money," a shattered Mohammed A. N, told XPRESS. He had supplied the bogus company with chemicals worth the amount.

And like in other dealings, the company paid Dh 48,000 as cash on delivery on the first order. For the second bulk order, Postdated cheques were issued. "My first cheque of Dh 600,000 bounced last Thursday," said Naveed.

Another Indian businessman, A. P said all his hard-earned money went down the drains in this scam. His company in Abu Dhabi supplied laptops and monitors worth Dh300,000 to Alwafa.

"I still cannot believe it was all a scam. I had visited their office in Mussafah several times and we were constantly in touch with their staff through phone calls and whats app. But from Friday onwards, none of the numbers are reachable," said Pillai.

According to victims, all the cheques were signed in Malayalam language by one Aboobacker from Kerala. And many cheques were postdated for July while some dated for the last week of June already got bounced.

The scale of the scam is not yet known but victims who spoke to XPRESS said the list is getting longer. "We already have more than 35 people in our whats app group," said Aamir. Among them are B.T who supplied pipes worth Dh 200,000, M.K, who supplied Plywood worth Dh 115,000, S.M who lost Dh 75,000, R.J who lost Dh 400,000 to name a few.

Victims said their effort to file a police case did not succeed because many cheques are dated for July. "Police said there is no ground for case unless there is a dud cheque," said one of the victims.

Meanwhile, efforts to trace the address of Aboobacker as given in his passport, did not yield any results. "We have come to know from our sources that all the people involved in this scam have already left the country. We hope the culprits will be nabbed before they start conning other people in some other place," said Aamir.

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jul 2, 2015
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