Abu Dhabi: A convicted globe-trotting fraudster has made UAE her new home and is now targeting businesses and government entities here, XPRESS can reveal.
Briton Gill Wallace Hope, 53, who has been reportedly jailed abroad twice for fraud and is said to be wanted in many countries, has reinvented herself as a self-styled champion of the poor in the UAE.
The queen of con is promoting her new incarnation through a grandiose-sounding scheme called CULA Liquidity Programme through which she aims to end (sic) the ‘sufferings of firms and workers and also get the country’s economy on track’ .
To give her sham show a semblance of credibility, Gill, who calls herself “Ambassador Hope”, has printed pamphlets claiming tie-ups with the UN, G20 countries and the UAE government, including the police. She has also posted a video of herself citing an official decree she claims “instructs all UAE government employees to collaborate and cooperate” with her.
Using the ruse of a feature about her ‘humanitarian initiatives’, we requested Gill Wallace for an interview. She readily agreed and asked us to meet her at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Tower 3 reception on the following day. At the scheduled time, Gill showed up accompanied by her manager, an Egyptian man in a suit and lugging two heavy bags. She led us to a plush 27th floor conference room belonging to a real estate firm.
Once inside, the Egyptian, who introduced himself as Yasir, opened the bags and pulled out several sheets of papers. “We’ve been very busy,” Gill said, pointing to the stack.
“And this is just the beginning. Under CULA, which means liquidity in Arabic, we’ll help 200,000 UAE residents put the crisis behind them by injecting Dh5.4billion at the street level. I’ve got Dh69 million in the UAE Central Bank awaiting clearance. It will be released within two weeks and used to help 200 applicants in the first phase.”
Gill claimed CULA is a one-of-its-kind programme and that the US, Poland and Cyprus were all waiting for its outcome in the UAE so they could replicate it in their own countries.
“We are assisting people who are in jail, those who have overstayed or are in hospital. But my immediate concern are children who might drop out of school because of financial constraints. As a third party we’ll cover all pending school fees. I am already coordinating with various schools and ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council),” she claimed.
Midway through the meeting, Gill’s manager Yasir also joined in. “We help all this poor very much,” he said in broken English.
Gill said she was glad to have him on aboard. “Yasir is so devoted he has left his family and quit his job to focus on CULA,” she said.
Gill’s confidence remained unwavering throughout the conversation as she ran us through her fanciful schemes, name-dropping of international celebs and political heavyweights and using obscure financial jargon to bubble-wrap her sham show.
Sample this: “I want to inject cash at the street level to end gridlock, get cash flowing and pay down debt so that businesses can refocus on growth. The aim is to achieve quantitative easing, rewire the economy with horizontal collaboration and create self-employment and micro entrepreneurship.”
Last fortnight, an Abu Dhabi real estate company nearly fell for this mumbo jumbo after she tried to talk them into transferring a Dh50 million building in her name.
“She appeared so convincing we were almost duped. Thankfully, we did our due diligence and found out that she’s a fraud,” Georges de Castro, the firm’s French manager, told XPRESS.
Among Gill’s long list of victims and targets worldwide is Martin Seward-Case, a Dubai-based chartered surveyor and partner at BWA Management Consultants.
In 2009, Martin was approached by Gill Wallace to build 2,200 orphanages in Africa at costs running into millions of pounds. Initially tempted to go ahead, Martin told XPRESS he backtracked when he found about the woman’s criminal past.
In a statement to XPRESS, Martin said: “Ambassador Hope or whatever she calls herself now is a very shrewd trickster. With her record in the UK partly obscured due to her name change, she preys on open-minded people’s conscience supporting this with remarkable bravado and significant ‘media proof’ of her credibility. I was well into my second meeting with her before I noticed a few inconsistencies. When I confronted her over the phone a few days later she lost the plot - threatening legal action and all sorts. Needless to say nothing came of it as she had been found out.
Five years on and reading her current linkedIn profile - it seems she is still at it. Someone in authority really needs to do something about this as innocent folk should not have to suffer.”
Gill’s Linkedin profile and Facebook page describes her as advisor to Obama and the UAE government on Economic and Environmental Sustainability. There is neither any reliable evidence to support these credentials nor any proof to back her claims of “leading an international network of stakeholders committed to improving the ‘quality of life’ of 1 billion people who live on $1 a day or less.”
Instead, there are scores of newspaper reports and blogs about her murky past.
According to UK media, Gill Wallace Hope is originally from Wolverhampton and her real name is Gill Edwards. She reportedly fled Britain for the US in 2001 following an arrest warrant. Newspaper reports say she was convicted for fraud in 1994 and also served a jail term. In US, she was accused of trying to rip off victims of 9/11 and in Uganda, arrested for failing to pay a hotel bill, reports said.
However, none of this has deterred Gill whose modus operandi is to seek investments or services in seemingly innovative concepts and projects such as detox centres for NYC responders of 9/11, IPO forex for funding the green economy, and now CULA.
In the UAE since 2009, Gill has repeatedly bragged about her connections and her role in the development of the UAE.
A 2010 video posted on the sidelines of a sustainability conference in Sharjah shows the ‘Queen of Green’ as she called herself then, boasting a $1 billion investment in the UAE. “We are going to green the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and the Sharjah Ladies Club,” she is seen saying in the video.
Both Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Sharjah Ladies Club have denied the claim. In a statement to XPRESS, Sharjah Ladies Club Director Khawla Al Serkal said: “What this woman is claiming is false. The year the video was done was the same year I was appointed and I don’t recall her name or a proposal submitted to the club on the Green Project.”
An official at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce said he recalls Gill attending a press conference sometime back but added that the department has no ties with her.
Gill Wallace, however, denied any wrongdoing and instead blamed the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) for tarnishing her image when we called her later.
“I’ve never served time in jail… it’s a smear campaign run by racists in San Diego, America. The Klu Klux Klan which is against black and brown people are behind it. They’ve been after me since 2002 when I took on the Africa project,” she said over the phone.
“In fact, I have an order against Google from Abu Dhabi court to take down the articles against me.”
Gill provided us a document which she said was issued by Abu Dhabi’s judicial department in 2012 ordering the websites and YouTube videos to be taken down. XPRESS could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the document. Besides, its case number does not show in online records. Curiously, most URLs mentioned in the document are still operational.
“What about the official decree you have been citing online?”
“Hmmm. I don’t have it. It’s in Arabic...I’ve asked one of the Shaikh’s friends to send me a copy but he hasn’t got back to me yet.”
“Could we at least have a bank statement showing you have Dh69 million in Central Bank?”
“We don’t have a clearance letter… that’s what I am working on. But we have confirmation the money is there.”
“Could you send that confirmation?
“Ummm. I think we have to wait as I am busy and it’s important for me to help poor people.”
“How is it that you don’t have an office or landline number?
“Good question, we don’t have a physical address because we want to keep our operation very lean and not spend unnecessarily on office expenses. We don’t want people to come to us, we’d rather go to them,” Gill said, forgetting that in the same breath, she had earlier boasted of taking an office space at DIFC and moving there in two weeks.
The conversation with Hope is on tape with XPRESS
Inject Dh5.4billion in the UAE at ‘street level’
Help 200,00 UAE residents facing jail time and financial issues (food shortage, bank loans, rents, overstay charges etc) under the ‘new financial model’ which is backed by the UAE government and police as ordained by ‘official decree’.
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Dubai-based chartered surveyor Martin Seward-Case was approached by Gill in 2009 with the prospect of building 2,200 orphanages in Africa at costs running into million of dollars. He said: I almost fell for one of her schemes. Ambassador Hope or whatever she calls herself now is a very shrewd trickster who preys on people’s conscience.
Ex-New York fireman Vincent Forras who searched for 9/11 survivors found himself in Gill’s crosshairs when she tried to con his charity Gear Up Foundation off $137million. He said: This woman is dangerous. I was amazed to see how quickly our communication went from friendly introductions to talks about millions of dollars. I alerted the FBI immediately.
US-based health information technology expert Tom Munnecke was contacted for an offer to open an HIV/AIDS treatment centre in San Diego with Deepak Chopra and herself. When he didn’t show interest, she proposed an expo/science centre in San Diego.
Dr Rebeca Justica and her partner Rodrigo Ontaneda who were in the coffee business in Ecuador were reportedly lured into selling their produce to Dubai to make more money for their farmers. But the pair pulled the plug when they “smelt something fishy”.
“We believe we had a lucky escape,” Rodrigo was quoted as saying in a report.
(Accounts based on interviews and reports culled from newspaper archives)