Scores of foreign exchange (forex) investors in the country are in financial limbo after the unexpected closure of a Dubai forex trading company where they invested millions of dirhams.
Around 30 investors of MMA Forex Online Trading Services trooped to the Mai Tower in Al Qusais on Saturday, demanding that the company return their money.
A sign that read “under renovation” was posted on the door of MMA Forex on the 11th floor. The building’s security told Gulf News that Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) shut down the office six months ago based on fraud allegations.
“I invested $25,000 [Dh91,825] at MMA Forex. Half of it came from my savings, and for the other half I took out a loan,” Zahid, 32, from Pakistan, told Gulf News. “The sad thing is, I invited two of my friends to invest as well.”
Zahid said he is barely surviving because of the loan payments.
“Sixty per cent of my salary goes to the repayment of my loan. What’s left is enough for survival,” he said.
He is among the more than 200 people who have been waiting to reclaim their money from the company in the past ten months.
An investor, who preferred not to be identified said he invested $12,000 from his children’s educational fund. “I am mentally tortured every day as it seems I have [compromised] my children’s future.”
“We want our money [back], we are going hungry. We have too many problems. We have to pay our rent, everything else,” said an Indian resident who invested $78,800.
MMA Forex’s client portfolio includes professionals from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Some pooled resources together while one invested using his friend’s money.
“Now he’s [friend] giving me a problem back home. He’s threatening [to hurt] my family if I can’t repay him,” said S.A., a cleaner who invested Dh31,000 on behalf of his friend.
Forex trading is the business of making profits by speculating  on the value of one currency compared to another.
Investors told Gulf News that MMA Forex offered clients an investor-managed trading account for a minimum investment of $5,000, promising up to 12 per cent in monthly profits. An expert-assisted account requires a minimum deposit of $3,000, that, in cases of losses, would not be more than 15 per cent of their investment.
For the investor-managed account, investors said they were assured of the safety of their investment through a clause in the contract that said: “The client is not exposed to any threat of loss. If any loss occurs, MMA Forex will be responsible for it.”
However, from October 2012 investors stopped earning profits. The MMA Forex management told them they could not pay them for the next two months. The two months extended to ten. When they tried to pull out their money, it was to no avail.
Investors also demanded answers from MMABank GT situated on the 15th floor of the same tower, where some investors claim they deposited their money.
MMABank GT is part of the MMA Group of Companies of which Malek Noureed Awan is the CEO. Awan, a Pakistani businessman in his 20s, is currently being detained at Al Qusais Police Station. He is under investigation for complaints filed against him by MMA Forex investors.
When Gulf News spoke to Awan, he said the investors were mistaken in their complaint. “I have no relations with MMA Forex. They are just blackmailing me to take their money,” Awan said in a pre-arranged teleconference. “I was not in charge of MMA Forex. It is only a company related to my family.”
Gulf News pointed out to Awan that his company’s website mentioned that one of their milestones was the “setup of MMA Forex Online Trading in 2006”. Awan insisted that his company’s name was “MMA Financial Investments Online Trading” of which MMA Bank GT was a member.
Two days after Gulf News accessed MMA’s website, the same text that Gulf News pointed out to Awan was altered to bear the name of “MMA Financial Investments Online Trading”.
On further investigation, Gulf News noted that the main contents and company profiles on the websites of MMA Forex and Awan’s MMABank GT are identical. The number of forex trading brokers, their trade volumes, trading tools, among others mirrored each other.
The MMA Forex contracts obtained by Gulf News also had stamps from MMABank GT.
A quick search online pointed to a video interview of ARY News with Awan that was posted on YouTube two years ago. The video segment showed him talking about MMA Forex, saying it has 100,000 customers worldwide.
“We have 72 branches all over the world. We have our own platform and we have broker houses here,” he said in the interview.