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21 February 2024

Fake 'Opec' firms target UAE

By VM Sathish



International swindlers are targeting businesspeople in the UAE with the lure of loans on the internet, with some claiming to represent Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Offers of “cheap loans” are easily found online with advertisements, which direct people looking for loans to official-looking websites that appear to be linked to major financial institutions. The scammers aim to trick people into paying processing fees for loans they never receive. Dubious investment firms have attached the Opec tag to their name and are luring clients by offering millions of dollars to finance mergers and acquisitions, secured debt, subordinated debt, equity investments and asset-based loans.

The fake companies – with names such as Opec Capital, Opec Funds, Petro Funds and Venture Funds – claim to have access to the profits from the high price of oil.

While negotiating for big loans, the companies make people pay a small amount as “loan processing” and a “translation” fee and then disappear. Vienna-based Opec and its sister organisation, Opec Fund for International Development (Ofid), are aware of the scheme and have issued a red alert about the fraudulent companies.

“It has been brought to our attention our emblem and official name are being unlawfully used for marketing, financing, investment as well as other business activities by fraudulent organisations, entities, agencies and individuals falsely alleging formal or informal links or agency relationships with Opec in order to gain credibility,” the red alert said.

“Opec is not linked to any such organisations, businesses, entities or individuals. And accepts no liability or responsibility for damages.”

However, the warning has come too late for one computer trader in Bur Dubai who fell for the scam.

The Indian trader was lured into thinking he was going to be made a partner in an African gold mine. “We saw an advertisement online. We have lost a big amount to the gang. For the loan processing money we paid, they gave us post-dated cheques and after taking the processing fee they disappeared.”