DUBAI: If this con job were rated on a scale of one to 10, then the scam artists should get 10 for their ingenuity and the victim zero for his incredulity or to put it crudely — stupidity.
How else can you describe this bizarre case in which a senior Dubai manager drove the scammers to his home from the office and then, without provocation, handed them Dh75,000?
Pakistan national Syed Mohammad Ali Azam, 50, was at work on August 22 when two men walked into his Jebel Ali site office around 10am and asked for water. “They introduced themselves as pious saints from Pakistan’s Pakpattan district and we started a chat,” recalls Azam.
During the conversation, the elder of the two asked for Azam’s eyeglasses so that he could cast a spell on them. “He chanted something and gave them back saying I wouldn’t be needing them soon. Then he asked me to hold a chit of paper in my clenched fist and make a wish. When I opened my fist the paper had turned into a red stone. I was astonished.”
After some time the men requested Azam to drop them on the main road so they could proceed to Fujairah. They had driven a few kilometres when Azam was ordered to stop and fetch a small stone from the roadside.
“Again they asked me to hold the stone close to my heart and make a wish. When I opened my fist, the stone had turned into a white amulet.”
Secure in the belief that Azam had fallen for their ‘supernatural’ prowess hook, line and sinker, the conmen made their next move.
They asked Azam to take them to his home. “I thought I was blessed to be in such august company and readily agreed.”
Some time earlier Azam had won a court case and got a large sum of money in settlements. Bizarrely, he kept it in a small wooden trinket box in his drawing room, along with other savings. The money was mostly in denominations of Dh1,000 and Dh500.
At Azam’s house in Al Quoz, the conmen performed the paper-chit-turns-into stone miracle again. It impressed his wife and 13-year-old daughter, but not his son, 16, who got suspicious of their motive. But before he could warn his parents, the elder conman, presumably the leader, angrily ordered him to leave the room as he was interfering in his meditation. The teenager looked helplessly at his dad who by now was obliging the guest with another request: A Dh1,000 bill.
“I unlocked the box and handed him Dh1,000. He folded it into a paper and asked me to keep it back in the box. I did that. But after some time the man asked me to empty all the money from the box and lay it out on the table. Then he asked me to lock the empty box and not open it till 1pm,” said Azam.
His wife recalls: “My husband was obeying them like a robot. And even though I could sense what was happening was terribly wrong I couldn’t bring ourselves to stop them.”
The rest of the afternoon passed in an unrealistic blur. At some point, the men asked Azam to keep the money in his (Azam’s) pocket and drop them on the road as they were getting late. Azam said as he drove them they asked him to stop and fetch a small stone. “When I returned the men had stepped out of the car. The leader took the stone from me and holding his shirt out asked me to put the money in it. For some inexplicable reason, I couldn’t say no. It was as if they had put me in a hypnotic spell. I was not drugged or anything and yet like a fool I handed them all the money. They asked me to turn around and take 11 steps without looking back and I obliged,” said Azam.
“When dad came back home he looked as if he was in a trance. We questioned him about the money. He told us to keep quiet and wait till 1pm,” said his son.
At 1pm when the family opened the box, they found just a little over Dh6,000 in it. Curled up among the few notes left was the Dh1,000 bill folded by the conman.
“Everything else was gone. The money was never there in the first place because it was me who handed it to them. It was around Dh75,000. They never made any money-doubling claim. They just said the sight that will greet us when we open the box will be very rewarding,” said Azam who has been kicking himself since.
The family has filed a complaint with the police. “The policemen were laughing when we narrated our story. They couldn’t believe that someone could be so dumb,” he said.