"Nobody will help us," says Paolo Pasquini, from Tuscany, who has lost 50,000 euros in an investment that went wrong.
"Nobody will help us," says Paolo Pasquini, from Tuscany, who has lost 50,000 euros in an investment that went wrong.

Investors to sue over their lost life savings

DUBAI // A local businessman has been accused of embezzling US$36 million (Dh132.2m) by a group of investors planning a class-action lawsuit in Italy.

The case is a complex financial puzzle that stretches from the British Virgin Islands through Europe to the UAE. The Italian investors do not know what happened, only that they lost their life savings.

"I feel that it won't come back, this money," said Paolo Pasquini, 44, a father from Tuscany who lost €50,000 (Dh230,000). "Nobody will help us."

The money was gathered from about 400 investors by Gforex, a company based in Milan before it went into bankruptcy.

The owner of Gforex, Claudio di Fonzo, said he sent the money to a brokerage account that he opened with MR, a Pakistani businessman based in Dubai, to trade on the foreign-exchange market.

"You give money to these companies in a way that you can buy and sell foreign-exchange transactions," Mr di Fonzo said. "You buy euro, you sell dollars. You try to gain."

He claimed MR siphoned money from the account and blocked his access to the trading platform.

MR's lawyer in Italy, Matteo Cornali, denied the allegation, blaming the Gforex bankruptcy on mismanagement.

"My client believes that Gforex has issued false statements to their investors, committed fraud in their bookkeeping and misinformed the Italian regulator," Mr Cornali said.

Reached by phone, MR said he was out of the country, had nothing to say and hung up.

The investors are caught in the middle of the accusations and counter-accusations.

"We are families, many of us," said Maria Bietolini, 51, a communications consultant from Milan who lost €70,000. "I'm working but many of the investors are retired people … they feel humiliated."

The Italians have split into groups seeking different solutions. Those organising the class action say they are suspicious of Gforex's role and want to sue Mr di Fonzo as well.

He says the story began in 2008, when he visited Dubai and met MR, with whom he decided to open a foreign-exchange trading account.

The Pakistani businessman's local company, GTL Trading, is licensed by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. But Mr di Fonzo said the account opened was with another of MR's companies, operating out of Switzerland.

In 2009, MR bought a third of Gforex, Mr di Fonzo said, but a year later the Pakistani businessman mentioned financial problems.

Mr di Fonzo said he asked for Gforex's money back and eventually received "some hundreds of thousands of euros".

"When you open an account with a broker your money is supposed to be segregated and you make operations with this money on the market," Mr di Fonzo said.

"We did this. We did not lose this money with our operations."

Gforex last met MR in spring last year, he said. "We were really at the end of our company business because we had to give back moneys to customers," Mr di Fonzo said.

"We had a final meeting in which we were saying, OK, we need to give our money back. And he was proposing to us what we believe was a big Ponzi scheme."

Gforex went into liquidation soon after.

Mr Cornali tells a different story. He said MR worked closely with Gforex through a British Virgin Islands company called Global Tradewaves.

Global Tradewaves "did suffer market instabilities" in 2010, Mr Cornali said.

But at that point, MR and Mr di Fonzo signed an agreement saying any money Global Tradewaves owed Gforex had been converted into a $20m loan, which GTL Trading in Dubai guaranteed.

Mr Cornali said Global Tradewaves repaid some money but the company had been unable to repay the full amount because the agreement needed to be clarified.

Gforex has not responded to attempts to renegotiate, he said.

A financial regulator based in the US said the international nature of the case will make it hard to resolve.

"You look at the finance sector, there's no such thing as a geographical boundary any more," said Joe Borg, chair of the international committee at the North American Securities Administrators Association.

"Unfortunately, when it comes to laws and prosecutions it's all local."

Some of the investors say they feel desperate. VL, 53, a journalist from Sicily, lost hundreds of thousands of euros invested in Gforex.

"[It was] the savings of three generations," he said. "My father, my mother, my granny, my whole family."

Others feel helpless. "We are very sad, believe me, because you know how life is hard," said Rita La Rocca, a housewife from Sicily whose family lost more than €100,000. "We hope and that's it."


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Starring: Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey

Rating: 3/5

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Produced by: Reliance Entertainment with Chalk and Cheese Films
Director: Tushar Hiranandani
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar, Prakash Jha, Vineet Singh
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Started: April 2016
Co-founders: Muhammad Waqas and Muhammad Usman
Based: Karachi, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Delaware, US
Sector: Special education, education technology, assistive technology, augmented reality
Number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Growth
Investors: Grants from the Lego Foundation, UAE's Anjal Z, Unicef, Pakistan's Ignite National Technology Fund

Australia World Cup squad

Aaron Finch (capt), Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

UAE results
Ireland beat UAE by six wickets
Zimbabwe beat UAE by eight wickets
UAE beat Netherlands by 10 wickets

UAE v Vanuatu, Thursday, 3pm, Zayed Cricket Stadium
Ireland v Netherlands, 7.30pm, Zayed Cricket Stadium

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1) Ireland 3 3 0 6 +2.407
2. Netherlands 3 2 1 4 +1.117
3) UAE 3 1 2 2 0.000
4) Zimbabwe 4 1 3 2 -0.844
5) Vanuatu 3 1 2 2 -2.180

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Price: base / as tested: Dh335,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 400hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 4,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.1L / 100km

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Started: 2021
Founders: Syed Ali, Christian Buchholz, Shanawaz Rouf, Arsalan Siddiqui, Nabid Hassan
Based: UAE
Number of staff: 37
Investment: Initial undisclosed funding from SC Ventures; second round of funding totalling $14 million from a consortium of SBI, a Japanese VC firm, and SC Venture

Safety 'top priority' for rival hyperloop company

The chief operating officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Andres de Leon, said his company's hyperloop technology is “ready” and safe.

He said the company prioritised safety throughout its development and, last year, Munich Re, one of the world's largest reinsurance companies, announced it was ready to insure their technology.

“Our levitation, propulsion, and vacuum technology have all been developed [...] over several decades and have been deployed and tested at full scale,” he said in a statement to The National.

“Only once the system has been certified and approved will it move people,” he said.

HyperloopTT has begun designing and engineering processes for its Abu Dhabi projects and hopes to break ground soon. 

With no delivery date yet announced, Mr de Leon said timelines had to be considered carefully, as government approval, permits, and regulations could create necessary delays.

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Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
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Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
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Started: 2021
Based: Dubai
Founders: Parthi Duraisamy and Karun Kurien
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: $7 million raised in total — $2.5 million in a seed round and $4.5 million in a pre-series A round

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Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Stars: Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Dermot Mulroney, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere and Courteney Cox

Rating: 3/5


Wednesday 19 April – UAE v Kuwait
Friday 21 April – UAE v Hong Kong
Sunday 23 April – UAE v Singapore
Wednesday 26 April – UAE v Bahrain
Saturday 29 April – Semi-finals
Sunday 30 April – Third position match
Monday 1 May – Final


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Based: UAE
Launch year: 2022
Sector: Retail SaaS
Funding: Self funded

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