DUBAI // Families who have lost thousands of dirhams in fees after hiring a rogue removal company in Dubai have been reassured their items can be recovered, despite police arresting the man who sold them relocation services.
Lionel Philip Davis is facing seven outstanding criminal charges - three from 2014, two from 2015 and two more registered last year - related to issuing false cheques and embezzlement.
Customers with the same problems have united to form a criminal case against Mr Davis, who ran Expat Relocations and was a former managing partner of Relogulf, a moving and storage company whose clients complained of similar treatment three years ago.
It is thought Expat Relocations operations in Dubai have now ceased with the arrest of Mr Davis.
Jeff and Nancy Fullmer paid him Dh29,000 for a door-to-door removal and shipping service to the US but received their possessions seven months later, having paid out thousands more in extra costs.
“We’ve spent the last two weeks with mixed feelings unpacking our life after this absolute hell,” said Mr Fullmer.
“Every aspect of getting our goods to our home was like being in an international crime ring. Our names were constantly on the line and being wanted for more money to unknown parties, as Lionel had sent goods forward without paying any fees.
“People have been demanding immediate postal money orders from us or other bizarre methods of payment, all of which caused more time to pass, causing more in demurrage fees.”
One of the companies owed money by Mr Davis for services he had charged the Fullmers for had intended for their container to arrive in Miami, Florida, a three-hour drive from their home. It was then sent 1,600 kilometres away to Houston, Texas, because of a mix-up.
Although the Fullmers now have their items, they have had to take on second jobs to cover the costs they have incurred.
“We’ll find a way to deal with trying to get back on our feet,” Mrs Fullmer said.
“Lionel will not be able to do that in prison; that’s where he needs to be.”
Mr Davis sold relocation packages to expatriates moving away from the UAE on behalf of Expat Relocations, with more than 150 people thought to have lost out.
An investigation by Axa Insurance into alleged fraudulent activity is going on, with investigators looking at misrepresentation of insurance policies.
Gail Thompson, a British expatriate, began offering advice to others affected by the operation after her friend moved back to the UK and didn’t receive her items after paying shipping costs direct to Davis.
“People’s lives have been turned upside down,” she said. “Since 2008, Lionel Davis and his cohorts have removed people’s possessions and charged them a hefty sum.
“They entrusted their most treasured items to his care, only to find that they either never saw them again, or had to pay huge sums of money to retrieve them.”
Ms Thompson discovered four containers had been abandoned in Felixstowe, England, for 85 days, incurring huge demurrage costs.
She contacted international shippers Maersk, who agreed to discount the bill on hearing of the scam.
“I dread to think of how many people he has duped over the years,” she said. “I found nearly 200 of them. The cost emotionally to these people is beyond calculation.”
Several logistics companies have claimed bounced cheques or non-payment for services given to Relogulf.
Customers of Expat Relocations called in the help of UK firm Condictor Solutions, which specialises in investigating fraudulent operations and help people to recover lost goods and finances.
“On average, we receive five to six enquiries a week from Dubai with regards to fraudulent companies,” said John Brown, one of the lead investigators, who has helped more than 50 Expat Relocations customers.
“With the Expat Relocations case, the Dubai entity was passing blame to its UK operation and causing administrative chaos.
“We contacted the shippers directly, explained the situation and that our clients would give us power of attorney to deal with the matter.
“While group action is always advised, there should always be one voice communicating with those owed money.”