New trading scam rocks Dubai

17 Sep, 2016

DUBAI More than a dozen duped businessmen and dud cheques to the tune of Dh10 million. That’s the trail of havoc left behind by conmen in yet another chillingly well-orchestrated and now familiar trading scam to hit Dubai.

It may be the same story-line with the same set of sub-plots but this time the damages are bigger and the setting in Deira’s Al Muteena Street more urbane.

From Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining tools to picnic essentials like Styrofoam cups and plates and everything in between (tyres, vegetable oils, import quality basmati rice and smartphones and tablets) the phony Barnabio General Trading made bulk purchases of everything they could lay their hands on from various companies against high-value post-dated cheques (PDCs) over the last few months – only to sell off the goods in another emirate at dirt cheap prices before scooting off with the bounty (see modus operandi).

Details of the swindle, however, emerged this week when several cheques bounced. “My company’s cheque returned due to insufficient funds and when I rushed to their office, my worst fears were confirmed. The door was locked and there were no signs of them. No one had a clue. It’s been a week now,” says Tom Cao, the 26-year-old sales manager of a mobile and electronic gadgets company in Deira that delivered Barnabio 430 tablets worth Dh60,000 on Saturday, April 30, just the night before his cheque was due. “I made a big mistake, but it could have been all so worse had we taken up their initial order for 2,000 pieces,” says Cao who came to Dubai just a few weeks ago.

However, most of those caught in the web of deceit and subterfuge are seasoned businessmen. The trail of misery and heartache left by the con men – mostly from India and Pakistan with an Arab in the forefront – stretches from Dubai and Sharjah to Ajman and Al Ain.

Staff of a Jebel Ali company that specialises in industrial tools said they delivered 500 CNC machines and tools worth Dh123,000 and 940 end mills ( a cutting tool used in industrial milling applications) from Spain worth Dh197,000. “The cheque for the first amount was returned due to insufficient funds while the next one is due on May 11. We will file a police case after that,” the company executive said.

The first few dealings in most cases including this one were always in cash. Their trust gained, the conmen then placed bigger orders against post dated cheques which turned out to be duds. “We have come to know that they sold the goods from a warehouse in Ajman. Most likely it’s the handiwork of the same gang that carried out similar con jobs in the past,” said another victim who lost close to Dh2 million. The trader didn’t want to reveal the items he sold.

“They had made the full payment of Dh30,000 for foam cups, plates and other cleaning equipment first time around, but this time they placed an order three times bigger. We took PDCs based on the trust they had built on that one transaction, but it backfired,” said a staff of an Ajman-based cleaning equipment dealer.

Almost all victims XPRESS spoke to said the charade of Barnabio’s executives was so convincing they fell for it hook, line and sinker. “The Indian purchasing manager was well spoken and he even gave his details including Emirates ID. There was no way you could tell he was pulling the wool over my eyes,” said another Chinese businessman who delivered hundreds of smartphones worth hundreds of thousands of dirhams for nothing.

“Only the other day as many as five different businessmen gathered at the lobby, in disbelief that they have all been conned. Just between them the loss appeared to have been to the tune of a few million dirhams. I won’t be surprised if the total losses surpass Dh10 million,” said a staff of the Lulu Centre building where Barnabio’s office number 417 – closed since Sunday, May 1 – is located on the fourth floor. “What’s shocking is they appeared to be a genuine trading company like our other tenants in this building. They were in business for a year and even renewed the tenancy contract in March. Their next cheque is due in June,” he said.

XPRESS has copies of passport, UAE residence visa and the Emirates ID of Ayaz Syed, born in Mumbai in 1967 and a resident of Thane, who claims to be the partner of Barnabio Trading.

XPRESS has reported about similar scams in the past. In February 2013, Danat Al Mamzar General Trading left a trail of 40 victims in Sharjah, duping them of over Dh10 million. In October 2014, Spears International, Ronnington Technical Services and Steelite Electrical and Mechanical all disappeared within a few days of each other, wiping out nearly Dh30 million from the market. In July 2015, Najm Alwafa Electromechanical Contracting in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi swindled about 30 business establishments.

In a reprise of scams, reported by XPRESS in the past, Barnabio General Trading LLC set up a website and a phony office in Lulu Centre Building, Al Muteena, Dubai in 2015 before approaching UAE business establishments for trade enquiries. In an act of pure evil genius, the con artists then quickly went about their job — purchasing just about anything they could lay their hands on against post-dated dud cheques. Before the cheques could be presented in banks, the scamsters sold the goods at throwaway prices for cash and fled the country.

YOUSPEAK: Have you been a victim of a similar scam?

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