Owner of Dubai-based visa firm ‘runs away’ leaving customers out of pocket

Global Visas Dubai in Business Bay closed without notice last month, leaving its 25 staff members jobless and two months’ wages in arrears.

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DUBAI // The owner of a company that offered help obtaining foreign visas has shut it down and cannot be contacted, leaving more than 1,000 customers thousands of dirhams out of pocket.

Global Visas Dubai in Business Bay closed without notice last month, leaving its 25 staff members jobless and two months’ wages in arrears.

Liam Clifford, 44, its chief executive, has a history of debt-ridden companies including his UK firm IXP Visas, which went into liquidation in August last year.

In 2008 he was barred from British company directorship for five years after his Global Moves firm was liquidated with debts of £633,000.

Mahadavan Gopalan, 30, an HR professional in Sharjah, hired Global Visas a year ago to help him emigrate to Canada.

“They not only assured me about the immigration but they also said I had a job in Canada,” said Mr Gopalan, an Indian who earns Dh4,000 a month. “So I paid them Dh10,000 as their consultancy fee.”

The company stopped answering his phone calls on October 20.

He went to its offices where a security guard told her it had closed several days earlier.

Mr Gopalan, along with other complainants, has filed a case against the company at Dubai Economic Department.

“It’s a major financial blow to me. I not only lost money and time but I also have no idea what happened to my immigration application,” he said.

Mr Clifford’s company also has offices in Canada, South Africa, India and the US.

A former staff member at Global Visas Dubai said he tried to contact Mr Clifford for days but could not get through.

“About 10 days ago, when we went to the office, it was closed down,” he said. “Even our work portal was blocked and we were not able to access our system. Then we realised he had run away, leaving all of us in a crisis situation.”

The former worker said more than 1,000 people who applied to emigrate to Canada and other western countries have been affected.

He said the staff had filed a complaint to Ministry of Labour.

Egyptian M H, 39, applied for Canadian citizenship last December for herself, her husband and their three children. She paid more than Dh15,000.

“For one year they made me run here and there to get the required attested documents for immigration application,” she said. “I spent so much extra in getting my certificates attested. They said the application of our family is in process and we should get the call in few weeks.”

Jessica Seguin, a spokeswoman for the Citizenship and Immigration Canada organisation, said it was an offence for any private company to charge fees for immigration services.

“A person who wants to come to Canada does not need to hire an immigration representative. No immigration representative has special access to our programmes and services and no one can guarantee someone a visa,” she said.

Mr Clifford did not respond to attempts to contact him.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae