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‘Mason’ at the centre of multi-million scam in UAE

Conmen projected him as company owner as part of audacious plan to swindle scores of traders in Dubai

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 21:30 February 13, 2013
  • XPRESS

Dubai: Conmen have pulled off another massive scam in Dubai and this time they’ve used a mason as a frontman to rip off Dh14 million worth of goods from scores of suppliers, XPRESS has learnt.

The mason, identified as Vinod Rajendran from India, was projected as the owner-manager of SunLink Marine Services with 49 per cent shares.

But a victim who traced the mason to his hometown Kerala said the man lived modestly and was clueless about the con.

“We suspect the real people who pulled off this scam are probably still in the country [UAE],” said Savio whose marine equipment supply firm lost Dh172,000.

“Their cheques turned out to be duds. The guy whose name is on the registration documents is a mason who was promised Dh5,000 to sign registration papers for the new company. “We conducted investigations on our own. He [mason] has no clue as to what is going on,” said Savio.

Rajendran worked as a mason in the UAE until 2009. After he lost his job, he went back to India. He returned to the UAE on a visit visa the following year. It’s not immediately clear what he did between 2010 and 2011. But somewhere along the way he met the conmen who offered him money in exchange for his passport for a startup business.

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“They offered him Dh5,000 a month. It appears he unwittingly allowed himself to be used as a frontman,” said Savio. 

Trail of misery

Around 400 dud cheques were issued by the company from their flashy office at Wafi Residence.

It has been shut down since January 26.

“They had a great looking office on the ground floor of Wafi Residence,” said a trader who supplied SunLink with steel products worth Dh2.2 million.

“Our credit policies are very strict. We made a detailed enquiry with the bank about the reputation of the company and the bank gave a favourable reply,” he added.

On February 6, XPRESS reported a similar scam in which Danat Al Mamzar General Trading set up fa ancy office in Umm Ramool and ordered millions of dirhams worth of goods from suppliers against dud cheques before vanishing.

The latest con has left a trail of misery across 30 Dubai companies. Victims include marine electrical wire suppliers, computers shops, cable ladder systems firms, steel companies as well as real estate firms.

Today, none of the dozen or so mobile phone numbers listed with SunLink work, and landlines are just ring with no one answering. Small firms said the swindle could leave many of them bankrupt. “This will kill my company [if my creditors knew about it],” said one of the victims, who asked not to be named.

“It could hurt our business,” said a general manager of a construction company.

Sunlink’s ruse involved a shell company whose managers claimed to have bagged contracts in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“It was a well-planned con job. They presented detailed audited bank transactions with a three-year track record,” said Karim, another victim who runs a steel supply company.

That record, as well as 
the credibility of three companies that vetted the credentials of Sunlink, now lie in tatters, 
he said.

Anatomy of rip-off

2006: The company SunLink Marine is founded

2009: Vinod, the mason loses his job and leaves Dubai

2010: Vinod comes back to Dubai on a visit visa

January 2012: New owners buy SunLink Marine with the sole intention of pulling off this scam. Former mason Vinod is listed as ‘manager’, owning 49 per cent of the shares, in company documents

June 19: Vinod’s residence visa stamped

June: Company moves to fancy office in Wafi Residences

September to January 2013: Company starts placing massive orders from office, issuing up to 400 cheques to suppliers

February 2013: Thirty companies find out they had been taken for a royal ride by SunLink after their cheques bounce.

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