This post was originally published on 6 February 2017 and the content may be outdated.
In an exemplary act of charity, an Indian businessman in UAE has helped in securing the release of 4,500 prisoners from various jails by clearing their debts.
Firoz Merchant, chairman of Pure Gold Group, now plans to enhance the amount devoted for philanthropy to $1 million and bail out thousands more from not just UAE jails, but the wider GCC region.
“My first priority is to help prisoners in the UAE jails. Once this issue is properly addressed, I plan to look at other countries in the region,” Merchant reportedly told local daily Khaleej Times.
“This year, $1 million is earmarked to bail out more prisoners from the UAE jails and in the next few weeks, a few hundred more prisoners will be released from Ajman, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah,” he added.
Personally interviewing prisoners
About 200 fresh appeals for help land in his secretary’s mailbox each day. But Merchant is very selective and seeks guidance of jail authorities in selecting the beneficiaries.
At the moment, Firoz Merchant is busy personally interviewing more prisoners to make the next list for 2017.
While the majority of the prisoners are male earning members, he has come across some women and kids, too.
Number to reach 5,000 soon
After bailing out more than 4,500 expatriate prisoners, he is looking at releasing around 500 more prisoners from the Northern Emirates and start looking at helping prisoners in other GCC countries.
And in the next few weeks, at least 200 more prisoners each from Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain will be going home, as free human beings – thanks to Merchant’s noble deed.
After settling the dues, Merchant makes sure the prisoner reunites with his or her family.
“We clear their financial liabilities and ensure that each released prisoner gets Dh100 equivalent of foreign currency to reach home safely using public transport system.”
His office also arranges for a plane ticket to the nearest airport to prisoner’s home country.
Once they are released from jail there is no contact with them, says Merchant, as they will all be busy in their own small world.
“It is an initiative to help fellow human beings. I want other rich businessmen to follow. Out of the prisoners bailed out, none of my employees is involved,” says a content Merchant.
Born to a poor family with nine siblings, in Gujarat, Merchant joined his late father’s small real-estate business after dropping out from school when he was 11.
His father Gulam Hussain, a real-estate broker and a man of principles, found it hard to make both ends meet as his business always did not do well.
Today, Pure Gold Group is a large retail business with a presence in 11 countries – the UAE, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, France, India, Sri Lanka and Singapore – and boasts of 125 modern retail outlets. And in his quest for attaining riches, Merchant has not forgotten the needy.