ABU DHABI: A holiday turned into a nightmare for a group of tourists when they were forced to pay Dh20,000 for causing ‘bogus damages’ to jet skis in Abu Dhabi’s Al Mina area.
Australian Arib Jilani, 25, who was among the six university friends visiting the UAE from Australia and UK to celebrate the New Year, said the experience has left him disgusted. “It was bad from the start. We had a confirmed booking but the jet ski operator told us to pay extra saying he didn’t have enough water crafts and had to borrow them from competitors. “We grudgingly agreed. He took our passports and IDs and we were given six jet skis. I asked for a life jacket but was given one only after repeated requests. We weren’t told which areas were allowed and which were restricted. In fact, the operator told us to go wherever we liked,” recalled Jinali, who is now back in Adelaide.
“We had barely been into the water for a few minutes when two boats developed snags. But the worst was yet to come. When we returned on shore, the jet operator alleged that we had damaged the jet skis and asked for Dh30,000 in compensation.
Soon we found ourselves surrounded by around 12 men. It was like a gang. We tried to reason with them but they were very rude. While all this was happening I quickly googled the scenario and found several XPRESS articles about jet ski scams. There was another group of European tourists going through a similar situation. One of them was crying hysterically because they were not giving back his passport.
“I asked the jet ski operators to report the matter to coast guard or police and get the damages assessed by an independent shop. This is standard procedure. However, our request was turned down. Unfortunately, the operators had our IDs and passports. We had Dh1,000 between us. We gave it to them but they said they wanted Dh30,000. They said if we didn’t pay the full amount our names would be put on the exit control list and we would be arrested while trying fly to out of the UAE. We got scared. Even if we had wanted, we couldn’t have paid them such a ridiculous amount. We were held for six hours from 5 to 11pm. Eventually, they called some people who claimed to be from Abu Dhabi Police.
“However, even they didn’t help. On the contrary, they threatened to throw us in jail. I don’t know whether they were real policemen or imposters, but we were alone and too helpless to find that out. I told the jet ski operators that we were travelling through the UAE for two weeks and being university students, not carrying large amounts of cash.
“Eventually, the jet-ski operators settled for Dh19,000 which was the maximum cash withdrawal limit on my credit card. They took me to an optical store in Al Danah where the money was extorted from me. I was not provided any paperwork or invoice. They simply took the payment and left without giving my passport back. Later, I had to go to the Al Mina fish market at midnight where the operators handed back my passport. As we left he said, ‘You should be glad to pay, be happy, it could have been worse’.”
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