Behind brs: Malik Noureed Awan, MMA Group’s Chief Executive Officer Image Credit: GN Archive

Dubai: MMA group’s CEO Malik Noureed Awan, 28, has been sentenced to two years in jail on charges of fraud.

On October 30, a Dubai court delivered the guilty verdict against the Dubai-raised Pakistani businessman, who was arrested in April this year after his Ponzi-like investment scheme collapsed spectacularly and left behind a long trail of devastated investors.

Details of the verdict are not yet known but investors who put their hard-earned money into the company’s dubious online foreign exchange trading arm, MMA Forex, have hailed the verdict.

“I may not able to recover my investment, but I can at least draw consolation from the fact that justice has been served,” said a Sharjah-based Indian mother of two, who lost Dh45,000. It was her life’s savings.

A Dubai-based Filipino who took a Dh100,000 bank loan to invest in MMA Forex said: “It’s a big victory. MMA betrayed our trust. It’s got what it deserved. It will bring closure to the trauma we have gone through in the past few weeks.”

Many investors, however, didn’t seem pleased with the verdict. “Just two years? I was expecting a harsher sentence,” said a Pakistani executive, leading an online group of aggrieved investors.

He said he is disappointed but not disheartened. “There is still a long way to go because our group members have filed a slew of cases against Awan to ensure he remains in jail. He will have to fight one protracted legal battle after another,” he added.

On its part, the MMA Group tried to play down the verdict. On Monday, it sent en masse SMSes to investors saying the judgment is one-sided and that it will appeal against it in a higher court. “The case will soon be dismissed,” the SMS read. But his official Facebook page toed a different line. “This is a message for all those who are trying to *@*# me over, or all those who wish to vandalise me. You better start counting your good days because they will be over once my investigation is done. So, let the time come you all will have to pay for all the bad things you planned for me. I will not let you destroy me or my business anymore. It’s just a matter of time, once my time comes I will bring you all down,” the post said.

Enticed by the promise of incredible monthly returns on investments, hundreds of unsuspecting UAE residents signed up with MMA Forex. But like any other outwardly viable but untenable model, the Ponzi-type scheme looked good till it lasted. The bubble finally burst when the UAE authorities cracked down on MMA Forex’s Mai Tower office in Al Nahda early this year. Before long, scores of investors trooped to Al Ghusais police station demanding MMA return their money. Initially, MMA tried to allay the fears of panicky investors by claiming they would pay everyone as they were a conglomerate that ran an airline, a bank and other businesses.

But XPRESS called the company’s bluff in two separate stories published on September 11 and 18. We revealed that MMA Airline exists only on paper and has no licence to operate commercial flights. Our investigation found that MMABank GT, which is essentially a general trading company, is listed by various countries under firms one should avoid doing business with and MMA Forex is not even listed with the Dubai government or the UAE Central Bank.

Claims that it is registered with VG Bank Investment Bank AG also proved hollow as the German firm categorically denied having any relationship with them.