Duped: S.A. Akhtar, centre, and Zahid Husain, right, near the locked Danat Al Mamzar office. Right: Passport photo of Parvez Sardar, one of the con men Image Credit: XPRESS/ Francois Nel

Dubai: What could marble tiles, surgical gloves, rice, laundry machine, fitness gear, garbage bags, cellphones and A4 size paper possibly have in common?

Nothing, except that millions of dirhams worth of these items have been swindled in what’s perhaps the biggest and most audacious con job ever pulled off in the UAE, XPRESS can reveal.

Caught in the web of deceit and subterfuge are scores of business establishments. The trail of misery and heartache left by the Asian con men stretches from Dubai and Sharjah to Ajman and Al Ain. And it keeps getting longer as more cases come to light with each passing day.

In an act of pure evil genius, the con artists created a phony company called Danat Al Mamzar General Trading, took up a fancy office in Umm Ramool and then quickly went about their job – contacting local companies and purchasing just about anything they could lay their hands on against post-dated cheques. The cheques would eventually turn out to be duds.

So meticulous was the plan and its execution that the victims never suspected anything.

Ask S.A. Akhtar, general manager of Sharjah-based Jabal Al Toor Building Material and Marbles Trading Company which has been hit the hardest – losing nearly Dh1 million in a matter of days, last month.

Akhtar said he had no misgivings about the immaculately dressed men who walked up to him at the international building and construction show, The Big 5 at the Dubai World Trade Centre last November where he was showcasing his company’s products. “They made trade enquiries and we exchanged business cards. A few weeks later they turned up at our yard in Sharjah industrial area and placed orders for high grade Italian marble tiles,” Akhtar recalls.

“To lend themselves credibility they even bargained on the prices. It was our first dealing so we were a bit cautious and decided to visit their office. It was a decent set-up and we were reasonably impressed yet we insisted they pay 25 per cent of each order in cash cheques and the balance in four post-dated cheques.”

As per the agreement, the con men gave Jabal Al Toor three cash cheques between January 3 and January 12 totalling around Dh96,000 as one-fourth payment of the total order. All cheques cleared without a hitch.

Their trust gained, the con men made their first real move. They placed orders worth nearly Dh1 million.

Secure in the belief that he was dealing with a reputed company, Akhtar delivered tonnes of marble and tiles to Danat Al Mamzar’s warehouse in Sharjah Industrial area 18.

“All their cheques were getting encashed, we never suspected anything,” said Akhtar.

The complacency was shattered when the first of four post-dated cheques bounced on January 23. Akhtar rang up Danat Al Mamzar’s office. There was no response. He tried calling their staff. Their cellphones were all switched off. Panicked, he rushed to their warehouse in Sharjah and then to their Dubai office. It was a futile exercise.

Like Akhtar many victims have come knocking at the locked door of Danat Al Mamzar’s third storey office with dud cheques in the past few days. Among them are Zahid Husain who supplied surgical gloves worth Dh182,500; Abdul Rahim who sold 40 tonnes of garbage bags and plastic granules worth Dh131,000; N.K. who supplied computer equipment worth Dh50,000; R.S. who sold A4 size paper worth Dh150,000; Ahmad who provided telephone devices including iPhones worth Dh25,000 because they were his ‘corporate clients’; A.A. who sold sports gear worth Dh33,000; A.R. who sold rice worth Dh100,000; S.S. who sold a laundry machine worth Dh26,000 – the list is endless. “It’s obvious, they did a lot of research before picking their victims,” said Zahid Husain, 38, Business Development Manager, Intersafe FZE, which supplied the surgical gloves.

“They met me at an Al Ghusais hospital and introduced themselves as a major supplier to pharmacies. They sounded so convincing I fell for them. I visited their office several times but saw nothing amiss,” he said. Despite his loss, Husain said he was thankful he didn’t go ahead with two other deals – supply of two diagnostic machines worth over one million. “Luckily, I didn’t have them in stock.”

Laundry owner S.S. who got duped into selling them a washing machine for which he had placed an advertisement on Dubizzle said he’s can’t help marvelling at the ingenuity of the con men. “It’s obvious they had a ready-buyer for the laundry machine too.”

Sold dirt cheap

All goods were later sold at throwaway prices. Jabal Al Toor’s marbles were bought by an Egyptian trader in Sharjah at a far cheaper rate, Rahim’s garbage bags and granules were purchased by a company in Ajman at one fifth the price and A.A.’s sports gear ended up in Jebel Ali. Nobody knows what happened to the rest of the goods. But it doesn’t matter because the victims can’t stake claim on them as the people who bought them have valid invoices against their purchase.

The victims have lodged complaints at the Muraqqabat and Bur Dubai Police stations but the con men remain untraceable. None of the business establishments the con men visited had CCTV cameras. One can guess it’s why they were targeted in the first place. All that the tricked owners have by way of clues are dozens of bounced cheques, names such as Rashid Sarfaraz, Parvez Sardar, the con men used when they introduced themselves and a passport copy of one of the con men. For all you know they are all fake.