A Dubai court has sentenced a conman who defrauded investors worldwide to six months in jail and also fined him $75,500 for cheating an Indian businessman.
Com Mirza was sentenced to another six months in jail and fined $140,000, followed by deportation, in a separate case recently.
The Canadian expatriate, who has been in jail for the last six months, has 15 days to challenge the verdict.
He was arrested shortly after a Gulf News investigation uncovered how he had tricked hundreds into investing into disguised Ponzi schemes, dubious real estate projects and a cryptocurrency that is now worthless.
“Justice has finally been served to the people who entrusted Aziz Com Mirza with their money,” said Emirati lawyer Maha Bin Hendi, who represented some of the victims.
Gulf News investigations revealed that his victims included people from as far as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Greece. Most of the victims were from UK-based online community platform Muslim Entrepreneur Network, which 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.
Aside from LP, scores of investors lost money to two other schemes fronted by Com Mirza — International Success Group (ISG) and a cryptocurrency called Habibi Coin, once touted as the “Bitcoin of the Middle East”.
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.
The Muslim Entrepreneur Network was promoted by founders Haroon Qureshi and Harun Rashid, from Ilford. Mr Rashid later denounced the project as a “mirage”. Mr Mirza was employed as a consultant by MEN.
In February this year 20 reports to Action Fraud about the scheme were referred on to the Met for a criminal investigation.
A police spokesman said: “A full investigation was carried out by detectives from the Central Specialist Crime Command and the allegations have been deemed to be a civil matter. The complainants have been informed.”