Some of the traders who were swindled by the con companies recount their tale of anguish at this newspaper’s office. Image Credit: XPRESS/Virendra Saklani

DUBAI: A number of traders across the UAE have suffered losses running into millions of dirhams when three fly-by-night companies vanished along with the construction materials they purchased, leaving the hapless suppliers with bounced cheques, the victims alleged.

The traders say they were victims of an elaborate con job in which the items they supplied were sold off quickly and cheaply before the perpetrators ran away with their money.

Police complaint

A complaint has been lodged at the Bur Dubai police station, they said.

Anand C., general manager of a timber supplies firm, said he found out about the scam when a cheque worth Dh240,000 dated May 7 bounced.

When he visited the company's offices, they were already shut down. Outside the gates, he met about 20 other victims.

Calls and e-mails to the three companies which the victims claim have pulled off the caper - Panjab General Trading LLC, Camberwell Int'l LLC and Turnkey Woodworks LLC - remained unanswered.

"We are deeply hurt," said Anand, a Dubai timber trader for the last 37 years. "They worked hand-in-glove with each other."

Other victims said the firms provided cross-trade references to each other and tricked them into believing they were big establishments by showing records of bank transactions.

The victims alleged that an Indian man, Jaspal Singh Marwa, was one of the top conmen, and who they learned flew back to India on May 4. The victims also said registration documents given by the suspected conmen show they were established in 2007.

The website of Turnkey Wood Works, however, had tell-tale signs of something amiss as it contains "Lorem ipsum" dummy text since August 2010.

Owners of neighbouring shops say the firms opened only three months back.

The companies went on a buying spree − taking anything they could get their hands on, including steel, electrical cables, clothing, furniture, plywood, timber, water proofing materials and stainless steel utensils.

"They pressurised us into delivering the goods quickly and never asked for a discount," said Marwan, a British-Arab trader based in Jebel Ali Free Zone who delivered Dh500,000 worth of construction supplies to the conmen.

Marwan said he reckons over 100 people may have been duped.

Owners of small trading firms said their losses have been so huge they might have to shut down. Many were in tears when they came to this newspaper's office on the night of May 7. Some requested keeping their identity secret, fearing their banks or suppliers would run after them if they learn about their losses.

"I've taken a loan in order to buy the items I supplied to these people," said Sayed, who supplied more than 1,000 rolls of copper cables worth over Dh120,000.

Ahmad, an Abu Dhabi-based trader, said he lost Dh700,000 worth of goods to the scammers and is appealing to authorities to help trace the goods.

  • 100: the approximate number of people duped by the fly-by-night firms