Local "partners" yesterday thronged the Dubai offices of Hong Kong-based GoldQuest International, which was served a 48-hour closure notice by the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) on Tuesday. The notice period ends today.

The company's website - which was used by "partners" to register new members and thus earn commission - was also barred.

This stopped the flow of commission to resident "partners" who yesterday flocked to the company's offices in Bur Dubai to seek clarifications.

A company spokesman confirmed that local operations were "under investigation" but stressed that the firm did nothing illegal.

A DED spokesman, meanwhile, said: "The warning was given to the company, and if it does not close down its operations today, we will (close it down)."

DED inspectors are at the company's office to make sure its closes down the operations on time. "DED and Etisalat barred the company's website from being viewed. It was used for registration," added the spokesman.

He pointed out that a representative office is not entitled to make any deals within the emirate. It can only promote its mother company's services.

"We had received complaints about such activities. Many people brought to the company 15, 40 and even 50 clients."

Whether DED can stop similar activities in the future, the spokesman said: "DED will be able to find out about such activities through random inspections or complaints. Besides, for fear of being discovered, those firms will not advertise in the media."

GoldQuest officials are flying in from Hong Kong to take up the matter with authorities here. Shashi Korla, company's country manager for the Middle East, said: "We have received a letter from DED, which says it is investigating our operations. I still do not understand what the allegation is.

"We are a legal representative office of the parent company, licensed by the DED and have not violated the law. There is no concrete allegation against us and we have not gone beyond the purview of our area of operation.

"We are taking up the issue with the authorities and will probably sort it out soon, as our partners are suffering."

Until the website is cleared, partners won't be able to make business, a partner said.

GoldQuest has been active in the UAE for over a year. It markets numismatic coins for $800 per coin through referrals. It has over 16,000 members, called "partners", who, each in turn arrange the sale of the coins to ten members at the same rate.

Once, a partner sells coins to ten customers, he becomes a 'tracking centre owner' (TCO) and gets a number through which his referrals are booked on the company's website.

The credit for the ten referrals goes to the TCO, who gets a weekly pay cheque from GoldQuest International, Hong Kong.

"For each booking, the TCO gets a commission. A partner can earn unlimited amount of money per week," said a TCO on condition of anonymity.