Hundreds of expats lose possessions in transit after paying relocation firm thousands

A man at the centre of the Dubai Relogulf incident in 2014 has resurfaced under another name, but with the same result.

Gail Thompson has started a Facebook page to help friends recover possessions lost by a removal company. Duncan Chard for The National
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DUBAI // More than 150 expatriates have not received their possessions after leaving the UAE, despite each having paid thousands of dirhams in relocation fees.

Police are investigating claims by many former residents who have been left without household items for months, in cases similar to the Dubai Relogulf incident in 2014.

Those who have lost out are now seeking help from the courts to recover their possessions. They claim the same man behind Relogulf is responsible, but that he is operating under a different name.

Briton Philip Davis was a managing partner of Relogulf, a company listed at Dubai Investment Park, that is no longer trading.

Angry customers of Ex-Pat Relocations, who on average have paid Dh25,000 to ship their items home, are claiming they were sold services by the same man, who is now giving the name Lionel Philip Davis and is operating with an Ajman Free Zone trade licence under the name of Expat HQ.

Several attempts to contact Mr Davis were unsuccesful.

British expat Gail Thompson, who has lived in the UAE for more than a decade, has been fighting the cause of friends who have lost household items after being sold services by Mr Davis.

Relogulf customers who lost possessions also got in touch with Ms Thompson when she set up a Facebook group asking for information from people who had been in similar situations.

They confirmed that they had paid for services from Philip Davis when he was working for Relogulf, and alleged that it was the same person now calling himself Lionel Davis for Ex-Pat Relocations after viewing his Facebook profile.

“The fact that Phil Davis, now calling himself Lionel Davis, was continuing to operate came to our attention in July 2016 when some friends departed Dubai for the UK after 20 years,” Ms Thompson said.

“They had requested quotations from a choice of relocation companies and a company named Expat Relocations, headed by a British expat, gave them a favourable quotation. The bill for door-to-door removals and shipping was paid in advance and the family departed Dubai.

“When the arrival of all goods was overdue more research was conducted and it became clear that recently over 150 people had been affected by the actions of Relogulf or Ex-Pat Relocations and their operator in UAE, Lionel Philip Davis. We have presented the case to police and many others have reported it too.”

Those who paid for a door-to-door service that included packing, shipping, delivery and unpacking, were told they must pay further costs for containers to be delivered to their home after arriving at port.

The situation has created turmoil and upheaval for those involved, particularly families with children who have gone back to school with few of their possessions, no furniture and school books lost in transit or held in port awaiting fees to be paid.

“I am disappointed that this kind of enterprise is still permitted to operate in the UAE,” said Simone Percy, a marketing manager at International Movers Dasa in Dubai, who has been offering advice on how people can try to recover their possessions. UK firm Condictor Solutions is also offering guidance to affected individuals.

“If he [Mr Davis] hasn’t paid any freight fees in advance, despite taking fees from customers up front, then the containers will not be shipped. Shipping companies will not release any goods until the fees have been paid.”

Payment for such services is always made up front and insurance documents should be given to clients to show the level of cover, but many documents supplied once payment was made were allegedly incorrect.

A customs clearance note is also required for every shipment that has a bill of lading, a document required to legally ship goods.

New Zealander Christopher Hamill was moving home from Dubai in 2009 after working for two years as an architect with AK Design and called on Mr Davis at the now-defunct Relogulf.

Seven years later he has given up ever seeing his possessions, including expensive artwork.

“Mr Davis explained about insurance, which I paid for, but I later discovered from the insurance company that no policy was taken out for my possessions,” he said.

One of his paintings, by English Victorian artist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, is worth about Dh10,000. Another, a copy of Raphael's The Madonna della seggiola, is estimated at about Dh24,000. The total value of the art he lost is Dh70,000, he said.

Mr Hamill contacted Dubai Police, who said he would have to revisit the country to make a claim.

Another couple, who did not want to be named, paid Dh28,000 for a removal service to America from Dubai in August.

“After we left we started getting concerning messages from other staff members at Ex-Pat Relocations,” they said.

“There was a message that it was going to Australia when we are in the US. We were told it would arrive mid-September, but we’ve had nothing.”

Police would not comment on the case at this stage, and Dubai’s Department for Economic Development did not respond to inquiries.


The right way to move

Tips from international logistics specialist Dasa on how to reduce risk when moving.

• Ask for recommendations. You are going to want to have a pre-move survey taken in-house to work out how much your move will cost. Do not rely on an estimate that comes from someone who has not looked in every one of your closets.

• Do an initial screening. When you have a list of recommended movers, go online to do a quick background check. Faim-registered companies have all gone through a rigorous screening process and are continuously assessed.

• You should end up with at least three or four companies to call for a pre-move survey. Ask for a comprehensive quotation and read the small print.

• When an estimator comes to your home, show them everything you want to have moved. Ask for a copy of the pre-move survey to ensure that you haven’t forgotten anything.

• When you have received all your estimates, compare the bids. Be wary of any company that comes in much lower than the others.

• Now check out the contenders in more detail and make sure your moving company has the licences and insurance it needs to carry out the job legally.

• Now you can select a mover, so confirm the dates and details of your move and make sure you have a confirmation for your relocation.

• On moving day you should receive a written copy of the mover’s inventory and packing list. If you do not, ask for one.