Man arrested in India after $28,000 bill left unpaid at luxury Delhi hotel

Suspect was attracted by the luxurious lifestyle of a sheikh, police said

The Leela Palace hotel in New Delhi said the man racked up a bill for more than 3.5 million rupees. Getty
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Indian police have made an arrest while searching for a man who pretended to be an employee of a prominent UAE family and stayed at a luxury hotel in the capital Delhi for four months before fleeing without paying the $28,000 bill.

Authorities said the man they arrested, Mohammed Sharif, 41, previously worked with a wealthy family in the UAE for nearly 10 years and was attracted by the luxurious lifestyle, developing a taste for designer shoes, cars and clothes.

Mr Sharif, who holds an MBA in finance and business management, frequently travelled with the family, but in 2020 he had to return to his hometown of Puttur in southern Karnataka, where he felt out of place, they said.

He decided to stay at a five-star hotel to “feel better”, police believe.

An investigating officer said the man they arrested told them how impressed he was with the family's lifestyle, especially the grand homes.

"He wanted to recreate that life in India,” he said.

“He also showed us his shoes and claimed they cost rupees 100,000 ($1,200). He claimed he bought his T-shirts for 10,000 rupees ($120).”

Authorities launched a manhunt last week following a complaint by the Leela Palace hotel that a guest fled without paying his hotel bill and stole silverware and pearls during his four-month stay.

The hotel said he produced a business card, a UAE resident card and other documents and routinely chatted with the hotel staff about his life in the UAE to corroborate his story.

However, authorities at the time said the UAE resident card appeared to be fake and said they didn't initially believe he had any connection to the Emirates.

They said the man stayed at the hotel until November, racking up a bill for more than 3.5 million rupees (US$43,000).

While he paid 1.1 million rupees, he wrote a cheque for a further two million rupees, dated November 20, before vanishing. It bounced two days later due to insufficient funds.

Police said they traced a sim card to Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district, with the help of technical surveillance.

During the investigation, it was found that another guest had previously stayed at a five-star hotel in Mumbai for more than six months, racking up a bill of 9 million rupees.

Police said he is suspected of wanting to find investors for fake schemes to make more money.

“He was allegedly planning to flee without paying the bill but was caught by hotel staff and had to pay 6 million rupees. He has assets but is currently unemployed,” police said.

Mr Sharif has been charged with fraud, theft and impersonation.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 6:40 AM