Several UAE businessmen are in shock after a six year old marine company officials disappeared with their goods worth several million dirhams, collected over the past two months.
SM, which operated from mainland Dubai, is said to have claimed contracts from prestigious projects in Saudi Arabia and Oman.
More than 20 businesses approached Emirates 24|7 with proof of bounced cheques issued during the last two months against delivery of goods ranging from tissue papers to steel coils to petroleum products.
The owner of SM, one VR, has fled the UAE to his hometown in Kerala in south India.
The offices of SM at the prestigious Wafi Residence has been closed since January 26. Clients who visited the office said the office had been lively with staff belonging to various nationalities including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and European countries.
Most clients were handled by different salesmen who convinced suppliers to deliver goods for urgent projects.
“They had a great looking office on the ground floor of the Wafi Residence. Our credit policies are very strict. We made a detailed enquiry with the bank about the reputation of the company and the bank gave a favourable report. We now realise that the company had issued more than 400 cheques, most of which have already bounced,” said one sales manager of a leading petroleum products company. He supplied SM with oil and gas industry products worth Dh2.1 million.
Another businessman from Europe said he is yet to recover from the shock and might even have to sell his house and all his belongings back home to overcome the crisis. “I started my business here in the UAE about six months ago and this was my first major order. I still do not know how to survive this crisis. The company owes me more than Dh700,000,” he said.
A supplier of construction materials said he first delivered a container load in January and was about to deliver the second one last week. “But since the first cheque was about to be cleared a day later, I preferred to hold on to the supplies. When they insisted on delivery, I bought time by telling them that the container was still in the port. Finally, when the cheque bounced, they asked me to go to their office and collect the amount in cash. When I went there the next day, the office was closed,” he said.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the company had not paid the office rent in full.
Even after the closure of the offices, some companies continued to deliver goods. “All were asked to collect their cheques from the office which had already closed by then. Today these companies do not even have cheques to prove that they had supplied the goods,” he added.
An electronic products trader said he had supplied nine laptops and the company had placed orders for nine more high-end laptops and wanted them delivered urgently.
While the affected parties were meeting on Tuesday morning at the SM office, two new affected companies - including a travel agent who had issued air tickets worth several hundred thousand dirhams to various destinations- came there looking for SM staff.
Most of the goods bought were resold by SM at 30 to 40 per cent discount to other buyers, creditors claimed. “There are goods that could still be secretly stored in various warehouses across Dubai. We just need to trace them,” added another trader.
Cheque bounce cases have been filed at Al Rafa’a Police Station. None of the companies wanted to be identified for fear of backlash from local suppliers. Some of those who were affected told Emirates 24|7 that they did suspect fraud even when SM’s office was open and functional but could not do much as their cheques were post-dated and were not due yet. “Police will not take up a case unless the cheque bounces,” said one of the suppliers.
“There are many companies who cannot file a law suit as their cheques are yet to be presented,” he added.