Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 12:05 UK

Asian fraudsters targeting own community

Dubai
One woman was conned into buying a Dubai property which did not exist

BBC Asian Network's Divya Talwar discovers hundreds of South Asians are being lured into bogus investment opportunities by professional Asian fraudsters.

''We had chosen a luxury villa in the heart of Dubai, with a private pool, gym and a grand balcony overlooking the sea and sand.''

What sounded like the ultimate holiday getaway was going to be Ria Sawar's new home - a dream property on an affordable budget. It sounded too good to be true and it was.

Sitting in her three-bedroom west London home, Ms Sawar looked back at the glossy brochure of the apartments in Dubai that she was given to pick out her ideal villa from.

'He just disappeared'

''It was a two-bed villa decorated with the finest marble and furniture," she recalled.

''The retailer told me he would give me a discount on whatever I chose from the brochure.

''It was all so exciting, the property I had picked out was everything I had ever wanted."

Ms Sawar transferred more than £50,000 to a man from a professional property company, only to realise later she had been conned.

''It all seemed so legitimate," she explained. "The man had offices with staff working in them. The company had its own website and, what really sold it for me, was the fact that the company also advertised on Asian TV channels.

What I find the most shocking is that someone from my own community had let me down
Ria Sawar, a victim of the fraudsters

''But a couple of months after I had given him the deposit, he went into hiding. He just disappeared.

''I realised there was no property in Dubai, there wasn't even one brick that had been laid.

''What I find the most shocking is that someone from my own community had let me down. I trusted him and never thought a fellow Asian would do that.''Ms Sawar is not the only person who has been duped by someone within her own community.

Scotland Yard says Asian criminals are deliberately targeting and conning individuals from their own backgrounds because they are seen as easier targets.

Det Ch Insp Robin Cross is the head of the fraud squad at the Metropolitan Police.

Detective chief inspector Robin Cross
You have to be cautious, do your research and seek professional advice before exchanging any money
Det Ch Insp Robin Cross

''It has become clear to us that professional fraudsters are preying on people from their own community and scamming them through all sorts of investment opportunities.

''This is a very sophisticated fraud. It is a living for the criminals and they provide a very believable front to what they do.

''They are highly plausible, as many of these criminals will provide contracts which look legitimate, but they're not.''

Scotland Yard estimates hundreds, if not thousands of people from the Asian community are being targeted in what they describe as a multimillion-pound scam in which victims have lost their entire life savings.

Wife 'inconsolable'

Mansoor Ahmed, from north London, thought he was securing the future of his family when he took up his investment opportunity.

''My savings were just sitting in the bank and I thought it would be good idea to invest them wisely,'' he said.

"An investor promised to make me healthy returns that were compliant with Shariah law.

''I trusted him. He was well known in the community - a practising Muslim. He went to the mosque and was heavily involved in Muslim organisations.

I have to start all over again now. I have two daughters that I have to put through school, I'm so worried
Mansoor Ahmed, a victim of the fraudsters

''I probably didn't do the research I should have done before handing over my money, but I didn't think there was any reason to doubt him."

Mr Ahmed gave the investor £250,000 but he never got a penny back.

''I got an e-mail from him saying the money had all gone, there was nothing left.

''It was like a car hitting you. When I told my wife we had lost everything, she was inconsolable.

''It's knocked us back financially and emotionally. I have to start all over again now. I have two daughters that I have to put through school, I'm so worried.''

Scotland Yard is warning the Asian community to be aware of these criminals.

Det Ch Insp Cross said: ''If a deal appears to be too good, then it almost certainly is.

"You have to be cautious, do your research and seek professional advice before exchanging any money.

''Once you have been scammed you most certainly won't be able to get your money back. So, before you hand over any cash, make sure you're positive it's not a scam.''

You can hear more on this story on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.



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