Duped traders want goods back

After being given bad cheques by three Asian businessmen who then fled, Ajman suppliers fear they may also lose their products.

AJMAN // Traders owed at least Dh50 million between them by three Asian businessmen who fled the country are demanding that police allow them to enter 12 guarded warehouses so they can reclaim any of their goods that may remain.

The warehouses belonged to the Asians, who fled after issuing bad cheques to 57 traders for goods. The merchants went to the warehouses on Monday after learning that signs bearing the company name had been removed, said one trader who did not want to be named. "If the identity on the warehouse keeps changing, it means something is happening," he said. "It gets threatening [for us] if nothing is communicated to us by police when they are guarding the warehouse." The trader said he was worried that the issue would be forgotten if the warehouses changed hands before the merchants recovered any of their goods.

Amit Sharma, a marketing manager for Petro Gulf, which supplied lubricants to the missing Asians, said three unidentified Egyptians had been to the site, claimed ownership of the warehouses and were allowed access by authorities. The last order delivered by Petro Gulf was visible in the warehouses but the authorities had been slow in allowing the company to repossess it, Mr Sharma said. Petro Gulf was given bad cheques for stock worth Dh400,000. "If these three Egyptians claim they are owners of the warehouses, they should provide proof of purchase and payment for the stock in the warehouses," Mr Sharma said.

Kamal Basubramanian, a manager for Flow Trading LLC, which also supplied lubricants, said it had received bad cheques worth Dh12m from the Asians. He was upset about the way investigations had been carried out. "The authorities have not been helpful from the start and now the warehouses are being taken by other people," he said. He wanted the stock returned to its rightful owners before new owners took possession of the warehouses.

Attempts to get police to act over the bad cheques proved fruitless, Mr Sharma said. When the merchants realised they had been given worthless cheques and reported it at Buhaira police station in Sharjah, they were advised to sort out the problem with the issuers, he said. A few days later, with the issuers having vanished, their offices closed and their workers left unemployed, the traders again complained to police, who told them the three Asians had fled the country. Their case was taken to the Sharjah Public Prosecution, which asked Ajman Police to guard the warehouses as investigations were under way, Mr Sharma said.

"The warehouses were guarded for only a few days and the police guards then disappeared," he said. "Then we found that other people were taking over and had started operating in some warehouses. We approached police again and all they could do was assure us that the case was being handled." Judge Khalid al Dulaimi, of the Sharjah courts, said the traders had filed complaints against Cambridge LLC, Najeh LLC, and Tamashama LLC. The businessmen had offices in Sharjah and warehouses in Ajman. "We are co-operating with authorities in Ajman to go through the right procedures to open the warehouses and sell the products in them to compensate the complainants," Judge al Dulaimi said.

Ajman Police said the buildings were still under surveillance. "It's not true that police should be visibly guarding the warehouse all the time to prove the premises are under surveillance," a spokesman said. "We have good technology. Everything is being handled by the courts and our role in this is to protect the premises." @Email:ykakande@thenational.ae