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Some of the 6,000 tonnes of rice that went missing in the scam Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai Police has made its first arrest in the Dh15.38 million rice export scam uncovered by Gulf News in July 2019.

The 52-year-old Indian suspect was taken into custody last Friday and was released on bail two days later, police sources confirmed.

Scores of mill-owners from India were left baffled and devastated after 6,000 tonnes of rice shipped by them to Dubai in 250 containers vanished without a trace between March and April last year.

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Fraud victim Vipin Goel, owner of Kamla Rice Mills in Haryana, India Image Credit: Gulf News

One of the victims, Vipin Goel, who air-dashed to Dubai on Monday to give a statement to the police, told Gulf News he’s happy with the development. “I have immense faith in the judicial system of the UAE and am hopeful that the long arms of the law will eventually catch up with all those behind this crime,” said the owner of Haryana-based Kamla Rice Mills which lost Dh1.1 million.

In August 2019, Dubai’s Public Prosecutor ordered a probe into the audacious theft shortly after Gulf News broke the story.

The Public Prosecutor directed Jebel Ali Police to investigate accusations of fraud against six men and two companies, including a money exchange house for their role and alleged complicity in the scam.

Farag Deifalla, legal consultant at Yousif Alhammadi Advocates and Legal Consultancy, earlier said suspects claiming to represent Dubai-based Al Rawnaq Al Thahabi General Trading company duped his clients out of millions of dirhams with the help of staff at a money exchange house. The law firm said their clients were handed telegraphic transfer [TT] receipts by a money exchange house as ‘proof’ that their payments were being electronically remitted to their banks in India, but the money never arrived.

Investigations by Gulf News show as many as 23 TTs worth Dh15.38 million got cancelled after cheques issued against them bounced because of insufficient funds.

By the time, panicked traders rushed to Dubai, it was too late. Al Rawnaq’s rented warehouse in Al Quoz where the rice containers were delivered was empty as was the company’s office at XL Tower in Business Bay.

A copy of the article that first broke the Dh15 million rice scam Image Credit: Gulf News

The exporters now hold the money exchange house responsible for their losses. Many said if the exchange house had immediately submitted Al Rawnaq’s cheques to banks, they would have bounced and their corresponding TTs got automatically cancelled.

“The exchange house held our cheques for days. This gave the scammers enough time to receive shipments on the basis of TT receipts, move the rice containers to their warehouse and then sell the ill-gotten goods to third parties at throwaway prices,” Goel told Gulf News

Another complainant, Sumit Jindal of India’s KG Industries which lost rice worth Dh4.3 million alleged that the exchange house staff deliberately delayed the process for two weeks allowing the suspects to receive the containers and sell off the rice before the cheques could be banked.