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02 December 2023

Suppliers left in the lurch as Ajman retailer flees

Picture used for illustrative purposes only. (FILE)

By VM Sathish

The management of a major supermarket in Ajman has fled leaving several suppliers with just dud cheques and little else, with the retail outlet closed since the new year.

The wholesale traders and suppliers who dealt with Al Kamal Supermarket, that ran for a good five years before a new management took it over eight months ago, are all affected by the abrupt closure.

Suppliers were shocked to find the established located near a labour camp in the Ajman industrial area closed from January 1. They lost between Dh10,000 and Dh300,000.

The new management which took over the supermarket eight months ago had allegedly gone on a ‘sale’ spree to rid the stocks by offering them for half the price. After pocketing the money, they allegedly fled the country without paying the suppliers.

While some cheques issued to suppliers have already bounced, many of the victims are now waiting for their cheques to return so as to register complaints with the police.

Traders said that these gangs are operating in the GCC region as many such instances are known to have happened of late.

Recounting the days when everything was fine, Mohammed Mansoor, manager of a general trading firm in Ajman, a supplier to Al Kamal Supermarket, said the first few deals where clean. But once they gained the supplier’s confidence the supermarket placed an order in late December for two containers of rice and wheat against a post-dated cheque for Dh135,000 dated for January 2, 2010.

“But when the supermarket was found closed on January 1, we got suspicious. Now the cheques have bounced,” he said adding that there is no trace of the 15 people who worked at the supermarket.

While the mobile phones of those responsible for the running of the supermarket are all switched off, he said one person returned a call from Saudi Arabia.

Having been cheated, traders are now rejecting orders from supermakets. “We trusted them (Al Kamal) since it has been running for five years. But it is the new management that took it over recently that committed the fraud,” he said.

According to Mansoor, the perpetrators seem to be well prepared and are operating in the Gulf region. “They have since moved to Saudi Arabia,” he said referring to the call he received from one of them.

He has since been meeting other suppliers who have also fallen victims to the fraud played by the Al Kamal management that hail from south of India.

“The rice and atta that we sold them are now available in the market at less than our market price. Therefore our loss is two way, the lost money and lost sales,” Mansoor said.

A representative of a mineral water company, Kumar, said the supermarket owes him Dh45,000. “They used to order fifty to sixty bottles. But all of a sudden they ordered two vehicle loads of water. They were reselling the same in the market at massive discounts.”

Amar, a supplier of office automation equipment like photocopiers, currency counting machines among others, said he too lost quite a lot of money.

Kamal, a resident of the industrial area where the now-closed supermarket is located Kamal, said he can see several traders visiting the place to check the whereabouts of the management that has fled. 

The modus operandi of these fraudsters is quite clear. They invest in failed businesses, pump in some capital to revive them, place huge orders, sell for great bargains and abscond without paying the suppliers.

In a similar operation a few months ago, some Indian traders who cheated suppliers in the UAE, repeated the act in Doha.

Wary of such fraudsters, traders say they all need to exercise great caution to prevent the occurrence of such cases.