The Exential office at Dubai Media City remains shut since a crackdown by authorities in July 2016 Image Credit: GN Archives

Dubai: The verdict in the $300 million Exential Forex scam may be out, but the likelihood of the 7,000 UAE residents who invested in the dubious get-rich-quick scheme getting their money back remains a challenge.

Statistics suggest that Ponzi scheme victims end up recovering only pennies on the dollar.

Moreover, the victims will face a years-long process to get any money back as investigators search for the assets of Exential's flamboyant CEO Sydney Lemos. So far they have managed to locate property worth only US$15 million (Dh55 million).

 Recovering the money may be difficult but not impossible”

 - Hany Elsaid, Lawyer

Investigations by XPRESS show that investors' funds amounting to millions of dollars were moved to an Australia-based brokerage firm owned by Lemos' wife Valany Lemos, now holed up in Goa.

Recovering money from abroad is fraught with major challenges.

Although a copy of a Dubai Court order is awaited, legal sources said Lemos has been sentenced to over 500 years in prison in connection with the 500-plus cases filed against him in the forex scam. The 7,000 victims, mostly from the aviation and oil and gas sectors, had forked out a minimum of $25,000 (Dh91,500) per forex account after being promised annual profits of up to 120 per cent by Exential.

“The court verdict is very good news for my clients but this is just the beginning,” said Hany Elsaid of Abdul Rahman Naseeb Advocates and Legal Consultants, who represented the investors.

While the victims are happy about the verdict, they are still concerned over the recovery of their money.

The XPRESS story trail

The first XPRESS cover story on the Exential forex scam, above, and other investigative reports that helped expose the firm's modus operandi and highlight the victims' plight.

“The question is when will I get my money back? That is what is important for me,” said one victim who had invested $125,000 in five forex accounts with Exential. He said he had put in the money in the hope that it would come in handy for his son’s higher education. “The time has come for him to go to university now, but I don’t have the money.”

Another victim, who had four forex accounts, said it has been one long ordeal. “Where is the money? We will be missing the track if we don’t get our investments back.”

Elsaid said the first step in the case had been covered, but the battle was far from over. “Getting the money may be difficult, but not impossible. We will make every effort is to recover what has been lost.”

Around the same time last year, the Dubai Court had ordered Lemos and his companies to pay back investors their hard-earned money.

Elsaid said, “Lemos has the right to appeal against the current order. No one can stay in prison for 500 years, and he may well come out in a few years. But what we are concerned about is the money.”