190723 rice scam
Scores of mill owners from India were left devastated after 6,000 tonne of rice shipped by them to Dubai in 250 containers vanished between March and April last year. Picture for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A fraudster behind a 6,000 tonne rice scam uncovered by Gulf News last year has been found guilty by a Dubai Court. The Indian expat, K.M, has been sentenced to six months in prison and also ordered to pay $1.20 million to one of his victims. The 52 year old will be deported after serving his jail term, court documents show.

Scores of mill owners from India were left baffled and devastated after 6,000 tonne of rice shipped by them to Dubai in 250 containers vanished between March and April last year. Their collective loss was estimated to be over Dh15 million.

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

The conviction and sentence follows a detailed investigation into the scam by Dubai Police who arrested K.M. in March this year. He has since been out on bail.

Vipin Goel, one of six Indian exporters, who took the legal route against K.M. said, “I have immense faith in the judicial system of the UAE and hope to get a similar verdict in my case.” Goel is the owner of Kamla Rice and General Mills, headquartered in Karnal, a city in the north Indian state of Haryana. The export house lost $1.1 million worth of rice which was shipped in 17 containers to Dubai-based Al Rawnaq Al Thahabi General Trading. Farag Deifalla, legal consultant at Yousif Alhammadi Advocates and Legal Consultancy which represents some of the victims said K.M. has been ordered to pay $120,7855 to their client KG Industries. “We are awaiting judgement in other cases,” Deifalla told Gulf News on Tuesday.

Harman Rice ($553,640); Amritsar Riceland ($451,250) Aarna Foodstfuff ($289,925), AS Impex ($287,985) and Heera Rice Mills ($131,435) are among several other Indian companies which also supplied rice to Al Rawnaq Al Thahabi, represented by K.M.

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The exporters were given 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 revealed that 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 exporters 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.

The company’s owner, Tariq, who projected himself as a multi-millionaire, also disappeared.

“When I came to Dubai, Tariq invited me to his sprawling six bedroom villa for dinner and sent a chauffeur-driven SUV to pick me up from the hotel. I was impressed,” recalls Goel.

“At his house, I met his wife, son and mother for whom I carried gifts. In fact, her mother lovingly put her hand on my head to bless me. Everything was a farce.”