Image Credit: Mazhar Farooqui/XPRESS

DUBAI: UAE-based Indian victims of the $300 million Exential scam said they are shocked and dismayed to learn that their home country‘s government is looking to secure the release of the very fraudsters who stole their money.

Several gathered for an emergency meeting on Saturday after Vinod Palyekar, a minister in the Indian state of Goa, offered to help Exential boss Sydney Lemos, 37, and the firm’s accountant, 25-year-old Ryan D’Souza. Both were handed prison terms of over 500 years each for their role in the sophisticated scam.

The duo, originally from Goa, are currently in Dubai jail while Sydney’s wife Valany Cardozo, who was sentenced to the same jail term in absentia, is holed up in western India.

Following pleas by their family and friends, Palyekar said he will take up the matter with India’s ruling party president Amit Shah when he visits Goa and also speak to the country’s external affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to “find a way out to release the youths”.

Palyekar’s statement has sparked anger among Indian investors who make up nearly half of Exential’s 7,000 odd victims.

“I am aghast that of all people a minister would try to obstruct justice by stepping forward to assist convicted fraudsters. Palyekar is worried about two Indians. What about the thousands of other Indians who’ve been duped by Exential?” said Dubai-based Indian expat A.J, who took a bank loan to invest $50,000 in the company’s dubious forex scheme.

Another Indian man, M.S. who had four accounts of $25,000 each with Exential, said instead of helping the convicts, India should help their countrymen who have been hit badly by the scam.

“I lost my job recently and have nothing to fall back on as I put all my savings in Exential. “The only consolation I have is that the people who did this to me have got what they deserve. It’s sad that a minister is giving assurances to secure their release. I have written to the Ministry of External Affairs in India urging them to stay away from the case,” he said.

“Of late Valany Cardozo has been tweeting to India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asking for help. She is claiming that her husband has been framed. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said another investor S.K. He was among 19 Indians who approached the Consul General of India in Dubai last year seeking assistance.

Following the meeting, vice consul Lima Matthew wrote to the superintendent of police in Goa to look into the matter.

Copies of the letter, dated September 3, 2017 were marked to the director general of police in Goa, the Foreigners Registration Regional Office police headquarters and the ministry of overseas Indian affairs in Delhi for action.

“Eight months on we are yet to hear back from them. I expected support from my home country but what we have got so far is exactly the opposite. I hope better sense prevails and those in power in India direct their efforts to help us recover our hard-earned money,” he said.

Exential peddled a Ponzi scheme in the guise of a forex programme. Unsuspecting investors forked out a minimum of $25,000 (Dh91,500) per forex account after being promised annual profits of up to 120 per cent. Enticed by attractive monthly returns, hundreds doubled and tripled their investments by taking huge bank loans.

Everybody was happy while they were getting the promised money at month’s end. But when the music stopped playing, many hit the panic button.

Scores lodged complaints with the Dubai Economic Department (DED) which eventually shut down Exential’s Media City Office in July 2016.

Sydney Lemos was arrested in December 2016 but was released on bail. However, he was arrested again in mid-January last year and has been in jail since. He was convicted earlier this month.