A group of fraudsters who established a fake firm have swindled a number of local suppliers of construction equipment in a multimillion riyal scam that has shaken Qatar business circles.
The scam in which Indian nationals are reportedly involved, took place during the fortnight starting from the first day of Eid. All those involved are said to be UAE residents.
The “company” involved in the fraud had set up an office at a newly- built tower in West Bay. It has been closed for more than a week now.
The company reportedly had another office in a complex on Airport Road. Sources who know the victims told this newspaper that the “fake” firm’s three partners had left the country, leaving behind at Doha airport at least two cars they had hired from a vehicle rental firm. The rental firm is making inquiries about other vehicles taken on rent by the company which are still to be returned.
The gang duped a large number of equipment suppliers and vanished with goods worth more than QR15mn. “The amount could be even much more. It will take a few more days to get the real figures as more people are still coming forward with complaints,” said a victim, who lost about half-a-million riyals in the scam. He said that at least four more new victims had contacted him yesterday: each had lost a sizeable amount.
About 40 to 50 suppliers appear to have been cheated.
The goods supplied by the victims were transported to two or three different locations in the UAE in more than 30 containers over 12 days, the latest movement being last Thursday, sources told Gulf Times. The goods were transported via road, said a victim.
The two companies in the UAE where the goods were supplied are also operated by Indians.
One of the victims said they had already identified the person who allegedly introduced the partners of the firm to its local sponsor.
The aggrieved suppliers, who are mostly Indian nationals, have lodged a complaint against the firm at the Capital Security Department.
Explaining the modus operandi, one of the victims said that there was no reason to suspect representatives of the company who accosted him asking for huge quantities of construction goods, including Omani cables, wire nail, thread wire and polythene sheets.
Another victim said a member of the firm issued post-dated cheques of a prominent local bank. “I was amazed to see their huge warehouse on Street 12 of the Industrial Area. It was flooded with goods,” he said. Though they placed a local purchase order (LPO) for supply of goods worth QR213,000, only goods worth QR156,000 were delivered, said the businessman, who operates from Najma.
The fraud came to light when cheques issued by the company were dishonoured for want of funds earlier this week.
Inquiries found that a prominent construction firm on the Salwa road, from where purchases were made by some of the suppliers, reportedly lost more than QR3mn in the deal. “The supplies were made to those retailers on the basis of post-dated cheques” said an official of the construction firm. The fraudsters also made direct purchases from the firm, issuing post-dated cheques.
One of the suppliers said the firm’s well-furnished office and the dealings of its office staffers gave them no reason, whatsoever, to suspect their motives. “However, when the scam was uncovered, it was found that they had not paid rent to the owner of their godown,” he said.
The aggrieved suppliers are meeting Indian embassy officials today.
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