Hundreds of prisoners in UAE released after philanthropist clears their debt

The release was part of the Forgotten Society initiative organised by Pure Gold Group and founded by Firoz Merchant

Dubai, UAE. September 2, 2015 - Dr. Firoz Merchant, CEO and owner of Pure Gold, is photographed in his JLT office in Dubai, September 2, 2015. (Photo by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by:  Amna Shahid/News) *** Local Caption ***  SDEA020915-firoz_merchant08.JPG

Hundreds of prisoners have been released after their debts were paid off by a philanthropist to mark Ramadan.

Airline tickets home were also purchased for the 560 inmates who make up 26 nationalities.

The release was part of the Forgotten Society initiative organised by Pure Gold Group and founded by Firoz Merchant, who has donated more than Dh20m through his philanthropic initiatives.

Some 300 inmates came from the Central Jail in Ajman with the remaining prisoners released from jails across the country. The inmates had completed their jail sentences but were unable to be freed due to outstanding debt.

A Dh650,000 endowment made to the Faraj Fund — a relief fund for the welfare of inmates in correctional and penal facilities, with the support of the Ministry of Interior — secured their release.

Since its establishment in 2008, Forgotten Society has reunited more than 15,000 prisoners with their families.


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“Through this initiative we clear the financial liabilities of prisoners who have been incarcerated for money-related cases, ensuring they reach their home countries and are united with their families,” said Mr Merchant, 60.

“Paying their debt will set them free and will allow them to start again. It’s like setting a bird free and when you do good to people who deserve it you will feel good too,” he said, calling on all members of society to ‘pay it forward’ by helping others.

“We are humbled by the privilege we have to serve a community that has been forgotten by society,” he said.

Mr Merchant’s philanthropic efforts have released 5,000 people from the Central Jail in Ajman over the past 10 years.

“We are grateful to Firoz Merchant and Pure Gold Jewellers who have always been at the forefront of supporting Ajman Police in its charitable initiatives," said Brig Gen Mubarak Al Rizzi, Director General of Punitive and Correctional Establishment, Ajman Police.

"Over the years, the company has been honoured more than once for its humanitarian efforts and we hope that more private organisations such as Pure Gold would come forward to support people in need in society,” he said.

The next batch of prisoners who have completed their sentences and need help travelling back to their home countries are currently being shortlisted by Ajman Police.

Mr Merchant hopes to help by paying off the debts for more than 1,000 prisoners from Central Jail Ajman, in addition to those who will be released through the Faraj Fund.