Unexpected closure of a money exchange has created panic among scores of customers in the UAE, Khaleej Times has learned.
Duped customers alleged that the owner of the money exchange house, which has six branches in the UAE, shut the office and absconded after pocketing hundreds of thousands of dirhams.
Customers who wired money to their home countries through the exchange house said they have been left devastated as their hard-earned savings vanished overnight.
Most of the victims who spoke to Khaleej Times said have registered a case with the Abu Dhabi courts.
“I lost nearly Dh17,500 I had sent home. I am shocked beyond words,” Arun Murugan, one of the victims, told Khaleej Times.
Another victim from Kerala, India, who sent Dh25,000 in to the construction of his house, said he has lost almost a years’ savings. “All their branches are closed and no one is responding to calls for the last four days. I do not know what to do,” said the shattered victim.
The money exchange owned by an Indian national A. S. has six branches in the UAE. The two in Abu Dhabi — one in Mussafah and the other in Madinat Zayed area — remained closed when Khaleej Times visited them on May 28.
In Dubai, the three branches — Burjuman, Al Attar and Karama — and one in Sharjah, are also not operational since May 24. All attempts to reach the office of the exchange did not yield result.
The unexpected closure of the money exchange has left a trail of heartbreaks, as customers lost amounts between Dh1,000 and Dh45,000 in individual transfers.
Murugan, one of the victims, said he wired Dh17,500 to Federal Bank in Salem in Tamil Nadu in South India on May 17, through the Mussafah branch of the exchange house.
“The money was meant to pay some housing loans and other financial commitments I have in India. I got worried when the amount did not reach my family even after two to three days. When I checked with the staff at the exchange, they said the delay was caused by some technical problem in their system,” said Murugan.
Tired of calling their office several times without response, Murugan decided to visit the branch office on May 24. “I had the shock of my life when I saw the closed office. There was no staff and the lights were left on.”
Panic set in soon as scores of customers whose money got wiped off realised they have been duped, and started pouring in to the company’s branch offices.
Sohail (name changed on request) from Mumbai, who sent Dh22,000 through the Madinat Zayed branch to his NRI account in India, said he has been chasing the exchange house for more than a week.
“The staff kept telling me that there is a technical snag, and they were trying to solve the problem. I waited for nearly 10 days and finally decided to come to the office. But there was no one.”
Shajahan, a resident of Dubai, said the Dh3,350 he sent home on May 19 was yet to reach his family. “I have been using the exchange house for more than 10 months, and I never doubted their credibility. Their rates are good and service efficient. This came as a huge shock. Now I have to borrow money to send home to my wife again.”
Owner of a typing centre next to the Madinat Zayed branch of the exchange house said since May 24, dozens of anxious customers have been coming to him to enquire about the closure of the office.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, the Emirati sponsor of the company, who requested not to be named, said he has filed a police complaint against the owner.
“The matter has been reported to the central bank, and the issue will resolved soon and customers will receive their money,” said the sponsor.
He added: “I have his passport, and I have already put a travel ban on him so that he cannot leave the country.”