Dubai: Self-proclaimed entrepreneur and philanthropist Aziz Com Mirza has been found guilty of fraud.
On Tuesday, a Dubai Criminal Court sentenced the former Burj Khalifa resident to six months in jail and also fined him $75,500 (Dh275,850) for cheating an Indian businessman. He was sentenced to another six months in jail and fined $140,000, followed by deportation, in a separate case recently. The Canadian expatriate has 15 days to challenge the verdict.
Accused of cheating investors worldwide through a string of get-rich-quick schemes, Com Mirza has been in a Dubai jail for the past eight months.
Gulf News expose
He was arrested shortly after a Gulf News investigation uncovered how he had tricked hundreds into investing into disguised Ponzi schemes, dubious real estate projects and a cryptocurrency that is now worthless.
“Justice has finally been served to the people who entrusted Aziz Com Mirza with their money,” said Emirati lawyer Maha Bin Hendi, who represented some of the victims. She said the fines imposed on Com Mirza have been referred to civil courts. Another lawyer familiar with the case said Com Mirza is unlikely to get out of jail unless he pays back the investors who have filed cases against him. “He has been sentenced by the criminal court, but civil cases are still pending,” he explained.
Originally from Pakistan, Com Mirza was taken into police custody in October 2019, following a complaint from a UAE resident who lost $150,000 in Mirza's dodgy schemes.
Gulf News investigations revealed that his victims included people from as far as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Greece. Most of the victims were from UK-based online community platform Muslim Entrepreneur Network (MEN), which Mirza and his brother Rafaqat ‘Rocky’ Mirza got associated with shortly after its launch in 2015.
Once on board, the duo allegedly used the platform to float an investment scheme called the Leverage Programme (LP), which guaranteed ‘financial freedom’ within a year. Members were encouraged to join the network by forking out a minimum of £5,000 (Dh22,992) each.
Enticed by promises of high returns against investments, 300 people signed up in early 2017. Around 1,200 more enrolled a few months later. Among the new recruits was Sharjah-based Umm Rayyan, who had paid £25,000.
Nearly £4 million was raised under LP between January 2017 and 2019. A substantial part of this money was wired to the bank account of a Dubai-based firm owned by a third brother of Com Mirza, while huge amounts went to pay for personal expenses of the Mirzas.
Long list of victims
Aside from LP, scores of investors lost money to two other shady schemes fronted by Com Mirza — International Success Group (ISG) and a cryptocurrency called Habibi Coin, once touted as the “bitcoin of the Middle East".
Briton Kalib Hussain invested £50,000 in ISG while New Yorker Tariq Syed shelled out $100,000.
“Com claimed he was a real estate mogul. We believed him,” recalled Syed.
John Barry from the US said he had invested $500,000 in a scheme after spending a week with Com and speaking to people who regarded him highly.
Who is Com Mirza?
A Canadian of Pakistani origin, Aziz ‘Com’ Mirza described himself as a serial entrepreneur, investor, social media influencer, mentor, philanthropist and dream chaser. He claimed that since launching his first business at the age of seven with a lemonade stand, he had conducted business in eight countries. Com lived in Dubai's iconic Burj Khalifa and had more than 800,000 followers on Instagram. His Instagram feed is filled with pictures of him enjoying the hospitality of local hotels and restaurants.