Traders gathered outside Juma Abdulla Stationery store which has remained closed since March 28 Image Credit: Anjana Sankar/XPRESS

ABU DHABI: Scores of traders have been left counting their losses after the owner of a popular stationery store shut shop and disappeared overnight with goods worth millions of dirhams.

The store, located behind Navy Gate in the capital’s Tourist Club area, had been in business for 30 years. But it closed without notice on March 28, causing shock waves among suppliers, many of whom are now saddled with bounced cheques.

The store’s owner Rajappan Pillai from Kerala, India and his staff remain untraceable.

Some victims have filed a police complaint while others have approached the Indian Embassy for help.

Jaya Kumar, a salesman at Amber Stationery, who supplied stationery items worth Dh62,000 said he is still in the state of disbelief. “I have been doing business with the firm for almost three decades. There was never any problem with payments until now,” he said.

Store closed

Indian Anwar Ali of Al Malik Establishment in Dubai whose losses run into Dh57,000 said he had been chasing Pillai for payments since early March.

“Every time I called him [Pillai] he would say his funds are stuck elsewhere and that he would clear my dues soon.

Last week I called his accountant. He asked me to visit the store on Monday (March 28) and collect the payment. But when I reached there, the store was closed. Now my worst fears have come true,” said Ali. Many traders said they found out that Pillai had gone missing when their cheques bounced and their calls to the store went unanswered.

Palestinian Imad Sulaiman of Gift Palace Stationery who lost Dh60,000 said he trusted Pillai as he had a good reputation.

“Last month, he requested me to hold the cheques for a few more days. Who would have thought he was buying time to run away,” said Sulaiman.

The victims suspect that Pillai and his staff had been hatching their escape plan to India for weeks. “One day they were here, next day everybody was gone. Even the phone of his driver and accountant remain switched off,” said Abdul Latif of Al Gurg Stationery.

While actual figures of losses are hard to come by, suppliers reckon they could run into several millions as more cases of bounced cheques come up.

“The list of victims is getting longer with each passing day,” said another supplier who didn’t want to be named.