Dubai Police Arrest Indian Expat for Scamming 150 Residents in Haj Pilgrimage

A travel operator has been detained on suspicion of masterminding a fake Haj pilgrimage operation.

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Dubai Police Arrest Operator Behind Haj Pilgrimage Scam

The owner of the Baitul Ateeq travel firm in Sharjah is the suspect, an Indian expat of 44 years of age named Shabin Rasheed. The Dubai Police conducted an investigation into claims that he had defrauded more than 150 UAE citizens, and they arrested him earlier this month.

Rasheed is accused of defrauding people out of millions of dirhams by taking advance payments for a Haj journey that never happened and then neglecting to reimburse the people who were harmed.

Previous Reports and Apologies

The plight of many pilgrims who had put their faith in Baitul Ateeq but had since been abandoned was exposed in a June 2023 report. No one was able to make the religious journey despite having paid in full in advance.

Initially, Rasheed publicly apologized and attributed the situation to last-minute changes in visa issuance, pledging to provide refunds and return the funds garnered from reselling accommodations initially booked for the travelers. However, as time passed without any reimbursements and reports of similar incidents from prior years emerged, many victims decided to file complaints against Rasheed, ultimately leading to his arrest.

Victims Not Yet Reassured

Clients who had filed police complaints were informed of the arrest via text messages from the Dubai Police. Nevertheless, those who had placed their trust and finances in the hands of Baitul Ateeq remain far from reassured. Many expressed frustration over the protracted wait for refunds and felt they had no recourse but to seek the intervention of the authorities.

One individual, who preferred to remain anonymous, emphasized, "We have waited for far too long. He left us with no choice but to approach the authorities."

Another victim, Saquib Imam, revealed that he had paid Dh20,000 around the same time the previous year but had only received Dh5,000 thus far. A widow from Sharjah, who had paid Dh130,000 for herself and her teenage son, stated that she has received only 13 percent of her funds since lodging her complaint.

Past Incidents and Promised Refunds

This inquiry exposed a pattern of wrongdoing on the part of Baitul Ateeq that had previously left Haj participants stranded without recompense. Several witnesses presented proof of unpaid Hajj trips that were promised and paid for as early as 2020. These witnesses included Fazlullah (Dh50,400), Kamil Tahir Gani (Dh30,000), and Mohammad Ashram (Dh25,000). People who paid the 2020 Baitul Ateeq but were unable to do the hajj because of Saudi Arabia's limitations on international pilgrims between 2020 and 2021 owing to the COVID-19 outbreak complained of being given nothing in return.

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