rice generic
For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai’s Public Prosecutor has ordered a probe into a multi-million dollar rice export scam that rocked the emirate recently.

Several mill-owners in 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 this year.

Nearly a month after Gulf News broke the story about the audacious theft, the Public Prosecutor has ordered 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.

Dh 15.3 m

value of 23 TTs that were cancelled after cheques bounced

Farag Deifalla, legal consultant at Yousif Alhammadi Advocates and Legal Consultancy, 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.

“I have registered seven complaints against the suspects. My 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,” he told Gulf News.

23 TTs worth Dh15.38 million got cancelled

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.

Vipin Goel

The exporters now hold the money exchange house responsible for their losses. Vipin Goel, owner of Haryana- based Kamla Rice Mills who pegs his losses at Dh1.1 million 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.

Traders demand justice

“Sadly, the exchange house sat on our cheques for days, giving the fraudsters enough time to receive the shipments on the basis of TT receipts, move the containers to their warehouse and then sell the ill-gotten goods at dirt cheap prices,” said Goel.

In his complaint, 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.

Bhupinder Singh

Vikas Aneja of Amritsar Riceland and Bhupinder Singh of Harman Rice, who lost Dh3.66 million between them, flew to Dubai early this week to follow up on their complaints.

“We have full faith in the UAE judicial system and are hopeful that the culprits behind this audacious scam will be brought to book,” said Aneja.

Singh, who lost Dh2 million, said the scam has left several exporters bankrupt. “Many of them had taken huge bank loans. Now they are struggling with repayments,” he said.

“I am ruined and will have to sell my house and factory. I built this business over 20 years,” said a trader who did not wish to be named.