A Dubai-based entrepreneur accused of defrauding investors worldwide through a string of get-rich-quick schemes has been arrested.
According to Gulf News, Canadian Aziz “Com” Mirza was taken into custody by Bur Dubai Police on October 27.
The arrest followed a complaint by a UAE resident who said he lost over $150,000 in Mirza’s schemes. A source at Dubai Public Prosecution said Mirza is being investigated for fraud and taking money from people illegally.
In April, a Gulf News investigation alleged that Com Mirza had tricked hundreds into investing into disguised Ponzi schemes, real estate projects and a crypto currency that is now worthless.
The alleged victims include people in the U.S., UK, Canada and Greece. Most belong to a UK-based online community platform called the Muslim Entrepreneur Network (MEN) which Com Mirza and his brother Rafaqat “Rocky” Mirza got associated with shortly after its launch in 2015.
Once on board, the duo allegedly used the platform to float an investment scheme called the Leverage Programme (LP) which guaranteed “financial freedom” within a year.
Members were encouraged to join the network by forking out a minimum of £5,000 each. Enticed by promises of attractive returns, 300 signed up in early 2017. Around 1,200 more enrolled a few months later.
“Between them the brothers took millions of pounds from average people around the globe,” MEN’s co-founder Harun Rashid said in an email to Gulf News from London.
Among new recruits was Sharjah-based Umm Rayyan who paid £25,000. “It was our life-savings,” she told Gulf News. “We were called for a meeting at a mall in Dubai where Com promised us financial freedom within one year. More than two years have passed since then and I have no clue where my money is,” said the Indian expat.
Mirza has denied allegations of fraud.
According to the Ilford Recorder, some 32 households in Barking and Dagenham, 22 in Redbridge, and 34 in Newham are thought to have been affected by the Leverage scheme. One person in Ilford lost £150,000.
An investor, Nabil Madar, who lost £3,800, recalled Com Mirza addressing an excited crowd at promotional events.
He said: “The atmosphere early on was electric. It was so hyped. I put so much trust in these brothers [my fellow Muslims] and went home thinking ‘I’m so ready for this’.”
People who joined Leverage were also encouraged to invest in Com Mirza’s cryptocurrency, Habibi Coin. Many did so to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. But the promised returns did not materialise and in January 2019 the website abruptly shut down, with investors told it was “being reacquired.”
Habibi Coin, a real estate-backed cryptocurrency for Muslim investors, appears to have shut down.
A large number of ex-Leverage members in London have now been refunded and Leverage’s remaining proponents accused others of conducting a “smear campaign” against them.
When contacted by the Ilford Recorder about Leverage in February, Mr Mirza said he was “travelling” but added: “The allegations are denied. I can’t comment whilst I’m bringing legal proceedings against third parties.”