Among business communities in the Middle East, money talks. The success and wealth of the Middle East’s privileged is often displayed without subtlety, by visible accoutrements of success such as high performance cars, expensive jewellery, or in the case of recently incarcerated Dubai-based FX firm CEO, Malik Noureed Awan of MMA Group, a corporate airline.
The lid has been lifted on what turned out to be a non-existent airline that MMA Group purported belonged to it as part of a propaganda-based confidence trick, which investors told regional newspaper Gulf News, led them to believe that they were dealing with a multinational business establishment, and that their money was safe.
Clients Tempted By Status Symbols and Promise of High Returns
Last month, Forex Magnates reported that MMA Forex had begun to renege on its responsibility toward its investors by refusing to pay back the deposits that were made, having provided online FX trading services as well as managed accounts, and claims that it was transacting $20 billion in volume per month, and was targeting the massive foreign worker population in Dubai, as well as low- income individuals with claims of guaranteed returns.
The group continues to run a website dedicated to the MMA Airline, however, the company does not have a permit to operate commercial flights, as required by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the country’s highest civil aviation authority, according to a report by XPRESS.
Sultan Mohammad Al Zara, the Additional Director of Foreign Operators in the Aviation Safety Affairs Sector of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said, “MMA Airline does not have any record with the GCAA, and has never been issued any approval to operate in the UAE.”
Bogus Flights Across The Subcontinent
Abdullah Al Hammadi, Manager of Civil Aviation Services, RAK, explained to XPRESS that the license expired a long time ago.
Even if it were valid, MMA Airline would have still needed a GCAA Air Operators Certificate from the UAE national aviation authority, to operate an aircraft for commercial purposes.
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Despite the absence of such a license, the aforementioned MMA Airline website continued to display daily flights from Ras Al Khaimah to three Pakistani cities – Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.
Last year, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority issued a public notice stating that they had not issued any license to the airline.
As with many schemes which seek to bilk investors, the experiences of those who placed money with the firm continue to be brought forth. A number of such investors not only lost substantial amounts of money in the scheme itself, but placed further trust in the MMA Airline, which subsequently coaxed investors to part with further cash, for flights that were never available.
Plagiarism, Cricket Matches and Lavish Parties
Furthermore, Gulf News alluded to a potential plagiarism by MMA Airline, suggesting that it had copied a speech from Bangladesh’s national carrier Biman, and that the illustration of the company’s Boeing 777 appeared to be displayed on the website in doctored United Airlines livery.
One particular resident of the UAE, explained to Gulf News that he and his friends had invested more than $100,000 in MMA Forex.
The victim, who withheld his identity, started doubting the company’s credibility when he learned that most of MMA’s employees were either on a visitors’s visa or husband’s or father’s visa. He explained that he was fully convinced that there was something amiss when MMA CEO, Malik Noureed Awan, under the banner of MMA Forex, started sponsoring cricket matches and throwing lavish parties in five-star hotels.
Malik Noureed Awan, replied to one of the letters of complaint personally, stating that he was “Honored to reply to my stake holder. Pak MMA is working properly and making money. The only problem is that the profit will be released once the investigation is over, as our UAE account is locked, and all our funds are in Switzerland and USA. As soon as investigations finish, we will release your profit and thanks for your trust in MMA.”
Other complaints alleged that MMA had its office in Dubai sealed by the police, and during that period, investors received a series of SMS messages and emails from Mr. Awan, telling them to be patient and not to complain to the police, as this would only delay the process of getting their money back.
Moreover, he also mentioned in his message that he would pay the pending profits to clients in February 2013. In January 2013, the MMA office in Dubai was reopened, and the staff told clients that the pending amount would be distributed in February. It is September now, and no payments have been made to clients by MMA.