The Indian owner of a UAE-based money exchange has gone missing since few days and all their branches across UAE have shut down, media reports said.
Unexpected closure of “Smart Exchange”, which has six branches – three in Dubai, two in Abu Dhabi and one in Sharjah – has created panic among scores of customers in the UAE, Khaleej Times reported.
Duped customers alleged that Indian national A.S. who jointly owns Smart Exchange with a UAE national, has absconded after pocketing hundreds of thousands of dirhams.
Customers who wired money to their home countries through the exchange house said they have been left devastated as their hard-earned savings vanished overnight.
According to the report, customers have lost amounts between Dh 1,000 and Dh 45,000 in individual transfers.
“I lost nearly Dh 17,500 I had sent home. I am shocked beyond words,” Arun Murugan from Tamil Nadu told Khaleej Times.
Another victim from Kerala who sent Dh 25,000 for the construction of his house, said he has lost almost a years’ savings.
“All their branches are closed and no one is responding to calls for the last four days. I do not know what to do,” said the shattered victim.
According to the company website, Smart Exchange was originally started in 1989 as Harib Sultan Exchange and renamed later in 2009.
Closure order from UAE Central Bank
According to another report on Gulf News, the exchange house has been shut down after closure orders from UAE Central Bank.
The Central Bank has ordered the closure of the money exchange house after detecting irregularities, the newspaper reported citing official sources.
Authorities reportedly started legal action after receiving several complaints from customers that their remittances have not reached the destinations during past few weeks.
The UAE Central Bank was coordinating with the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) to constitute a committee with representatives of the ADJD, UAE Central Bank, Department of Economic Development (DED) and independent auditors.
Officials have not completed the evaluation of the amount of money involved in the case. However, it is estimated that a few million dirhams have been taken away by the absconding partner, they said.
Customers would not lose money
The official sources said the customers would not lose the money and the money will be returned to them by the authorities.
The UAE Central Bank is responsible for financial services, including money exchange services. As licensing of businesses is under the purview of the DED, they are also involved in the investigation.
Meanwhile, an association of money exchange houses said the closed exchange was an unknown small player in the industry and it was a rare incident.
“There were such incidents reported in the UAE during 1980s. But this is a rare development in the past two decades,” Mohammad Al Ansari, chairman of the Foreign Exchange and Remittance Group (FERG), told Gulf News.
He said the customers need not worry, as their money will be reimbursed from the bank guarantee of the exchange house.
There are an estimated 130 money exchange companies in the UAE with more than 1,000 operating branches all over the country. The UAE’s expatriate population wires foreign exchange worth Dh10 billion every month.
Published on 31 May 2017