Firoz Merchant Image Credit: © XPRESS/Pankaj Sharma

Dubai: A Dubai-based Indian businessman has come to the rescue of prisoners in debt by clearing their dues and buying them air tickets to return home.

"We are all human and make mistakes. We must be given a second chance," said Firoz Merchant, Chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, who has helped 335 prisoners fly back to their countries in the past six months. In addition, he has fully paid the money owed by 29 others to obtain their release.

Merchant said he has joined hands with the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable Trust and police authorities in various emirates to identify genuine cases. "It is up to the authorities to decide on the list," he said, adding that the prisoners who have been helped so far include those from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

Of the 335 prisoners sent home, 101 were from Dubai, 185 from Sharjah, 42 from Ajman and seven from Ras Al Khaimah, he added.

Giving a break-up for the debts he has cleared in full, he said there were seven cases each from Dubai and Sharjah, six from Ajman, five from Ras Al Khaimah and four from Umm Al Qwain. The money owed ranged from Dh6,000 to Dh55,000. Merchant, who has been in the UAE for the past 22 years, said he has spent over Dh530,000 to help prisoners from various emirates. In addition, he contributed Dh420,000 to the Zakat Fund Abu Dhabi to free the capital's prisoners in debt. "We are currently in talks with authorities in Fujairah," he said.