Written by Adam Gonn
As three Iranians go on trial for trying to swindle a UAE bank out of $4 billion, The Media Line explores some of the most outlandish scams in the Middle East.
In July, 2009, two men where arrested in Abu Dhabi, for trying to sell a money multiplying powder to an undercover police agent.
The men, from the UAE's capital, made claims the magical blend would double any amount of money when sprinkled over banknotes in a closed bag.
The scam worked by dusting some of the powder on the notes they wanted to double, then placing the notes in a bag while their victims were asked not to open the bag until the blend took effect. The money was then switched with fake notes covered with powder and closed in the bag.
The usual method involved giving the victims, most of whom came from the northern emirates, an initial “demonstration” of the powder’s inflationary properties, before asking them to hand over a large number of notes. The single largest swindle involved $1.6m.
A regional paper quoted a local police officer as saying ‘a massive number of people have lost money to them.’
Laboratory tests showed the powder consisted of flour and washing powder.
The Bullet Proofing Stone
A 52 year old Yemeni man was sentenced to six months in jail by a court in Dubai, for attempting to sell an onyx which, he claims, bullet proofs the bearer.
‘I am willing to prove to the world that it's a bulletproofing onyx stone... I am ready to face a death sentence if that's what it will take for me to prove that the stone is unquestionably bulletproofing’ the defendant said, though the judge refused to allow for a test of the stone's alleged capabilities.
During the hearing, the defendant argued that the stone proved bulletproof when he tried it four times on sheep.
The Yemeni man had put an advertisement in a local paper stating that he was selling the stone for approximately $490,000 at a stand he had at a local fair. As for the origin of the stone, the defendant claimed he had found it in Yemen without providing further details.
Disclosure: It should be noted the stone was never proven not to make its bearer bullet proof.
The Billion Dollar Heist
Following two separate scam attempts within less than thirty nine hours, police in Abu Dhabi arrested five suspects who allegedly tried to withdraw $42bn from the country’s central bank.
The first attempt involved the manager of a local bank, who together with two men visiting from abroad allegedly forged documents showing that the UAE Central Bank owed the leader of their group $14.4bn.
When arrested the bank manager was reported to have admitted that a foreign woman persuaded him that the Central Bank held 44 boxes containing $14.4 billion and that he would get 20% of the money if he was willing to help.
The second attempt involved two men who also produced forged documents claiming the Central Bank owed them $28 billion. One of the suspects was visiting the country and admitted that he was asked to withdraw the money for a third party in return for 1% of the sum. The role of the second suspect was to show the man visiting the way to another emirate to the premises of the central bank.
The primary police investigation alleges that both attempts were masterminded by the same sixth person living in another country in the region.
The Dream Job
An Australian man, R.K. thought he had landed a dream job when through the help of a recruitment agency, he'd been offered a $300,000 a year job in the Middle East.
R.K, a structural mechanical engineer has worked in mines all over the world. After paying $600 to have his CV put in front of key employers in the Gulf region he was delighted when he got a call from a man claiming to be the head of human resources with the Ajman Petroleum company, in the United Arab Emirates, offering him a highly paid supervisor’s position.
The HR head asked for $1,546 to acquire the Australian's visa and other documents. R.K who has worked previously in Asia, but not in the Middle East, didn’t think much of the request and sent the money.
But it wasn’t until he was asked for another $6,695 to cover a range of other things including airfares, that alarm bells began to ring and he realized that he had been the victim of a so called Nigerian scam.
Ajman Petroleum states they have never heard of the HR head.
In April 2009 Saudi Arabia was buzzing with rumors that the mythical substance “red mercury” could be found in old sewing machines from the brand Singer. The price of machines subsequently skyrocketed from $53 to $53,000. The rumors which started on the internet, claimed that foreign buyers ranging from Swiss and American experts to wealthy Kuwaitis were traveling around the Kingdom looking for old sewing machines. As a result of the rumors, people started to search markets and even rob tailors to get a hold of the machines.
Reports of the so called 'red mercury', first appeared in Western and Russian media during the 1980s without specifics as to what the object was and what it looked like. Despite this, the reports claimed the material to be a key ingredient in the construction of nuclear weapons. It has never been proved that “red mercury” actually exist, this has however not stopped rumors circulating that it can be used to summon genies, extract gold, locate buried treasure and perform various types of magic.
According to rumors one should be able to determine the existence of the mercury in the machine's needle by using a cell phone. If the line is cut while holding the phone close to the needle, it's a sure sign of the presence of “red mercury”. The rumors did not however provide any guidance on how to extract the substance from the machine.
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