Forex scam: Exential victims daunted by high legal fees

Investors say they have no money for protracted, expensive court battle

  • Syrian hair stylist Rafi Zazza borrowed from relatives to invest Dh640,000 in the money-making scheme.Image Credit: Supplied
  • Hany Elsaid of Abdul Rahman Naseeb Associates and Legal Consultants represents 60 victimsImage Credit: Supplied
XPRESS

DUBAI: If losing their life savings was not bad enough, Exential forex scam victims have to now front high legal costs to file civil cases against the accused in the hope of getting their money back.

Besides lawyer fees, which range between Dh5,000 and Dh15,000 per person, they must also deposit six per cent of their total claim amount towards court fees – a tall order especially for those who have multiple forex accounts or are already saddled with huge debts.

Since each investor forked out a minimum of $25,000 (Dh91,750) to open an account in the money-making scheme, the court fee of a single account holder alone amounts to $1,500 (Dh5,500). “Add the lawyer’s fee and translation and attestation charges and we are looking at something around Dh15,000 per person, and that’s a conservative estimate,” said Indian banker M.N. who is among Exential’s 7,000 odd victims in the UAE.

“Someone like me who has three accounts will have to pay over Dh25,000. Where am I going to get that kind of money?” asked M.N. who took a Dh50,000 bank loan and also dug into his savings to invest in the company.

A jobless Jordanian mother in Sharjah who sold her ancestral land said she doesn’t even have money to meet daily expenses, let alone foot the bill of a protracted and expensive legal battle.

Dilemma

A similar dilemma faces Dubai-based Syrian hair stylist Rafi Zazza who borrowed from relatives to open seven forex accounts of $25,000 each. “It’s an expensive proposition and there is no guarantee I will recover the money,” he said

A Filipina who lost Dh100,000 said they are pressing criminal charges against Exential owners as unlike civil cases, a criminal court doesn’t require one to deposit any court fee.

“There are 16 of us and we gave Dh5,000 each to a lawyer to file criminal cases against the accused. As per our agreement, the lawyer will get a cut if he helps us recover the money.

Hany Elsaid of Abdul Rahman Naseeb Associates and Legal Consultants who represents 60 victims said prohibitive court fee, capped at Dh40,000, is deterring victims from pursuing a civil case.

“This explains why out of 7,000 investors, only a few hundred have taken legal recourse,” he said.

Operating from Arenco Towers in Dubai Media City, Exential disguised a Ponzi scheme as a legitimate foreign currency trading programme, offering up to 120 per cent annual returns on investments before their office was shut down by the Dubai Economic Department (DED) in July 2016.

Last month, Exential’s flamboyant 36-year-old Indian owner who also sponsors a football club in Goa, India was arrested before being released on bail. So far seven cases have been filed against him.

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