ABU DHABI // Financial crimes in the capital are on the increase and a top official says police criminal investigators are focused on curbing the trend.
Brig Gen Hammad al Hammadi, the manager of intelligence and the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of Abu Dhabi Police, said yesterday the crimes ranged from clever and sophisticated frauds to crude street scams.
Some of the common schemes his officers encountered included robberies of clients leaving banks, "magical" substances that create currency, credit card fraud and even criminals working with rogue bankers to steal from clients' accounts.
"Our agents are everywhere all the time. In some seasons, more types of crime evolve than others. Right now we are focusing on financial crimes and educating bank clients about precautions they should take," said Brig Gen al Hammadi.
He said although the number of cases was not great, lately financial crime had grown "out of proportion" with other crimes.
Sometimes criminals targeted merchants, he said. A Malaysian woman was caught 10 days ago with 35 forged credit cards after she purchased a Dh85,000 Rolex watch at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
"We received a report of a suspicious transaction, so our officers rushed to the airport and caught her before she left," said Col Rashid Bursheed, the head of the CID's organised crime section.
Two days later, police arrested her partner, who officials said purchased more than Dh1 million worth of Cartier watches, iPads and other items.
"After we questioned the woman, she told us about her partner, who arrived in the country two days before her, and we caught him as he was trying to escape from Dubai airport," Col Bursheed said.
He said forged bank cards had become a recent trend; in the past three months, police investigated four cases involving 40 forged cards.
Col Bursheed said forged cards were produced by stealing account information from a legitimate client, often with the help of a bank employee, then creating a card based on that data.
Surveillance cameras stationed throughout the capital played a great role in catching criminals as well, he said, pointing to his computer, which displayed footage of a client conducting a transaction at a bank. "This man [an Emirati] was involved in stealing Dh1,700,000 from the seven branches of this bank across the emirates," he said. Working with his brother and a bank employee, he stole a client's account information and started withdrawing money. The bank employee forged the client's signature to issue a cheque book.
"You can see he pretends he is talking on the phone [for a distraction and to cover his face] as he presents his licence, because it belongs to someone else who lost it," Col Bursheed said. "When we received this case it was huge. It involved transactions from the seven emirates. We had to communicate with all the involved banks."
As a first step, police checked to see whether the transactions had been made by the same person, and were able to discover that was the case through CCTV cameras. The offenders were caught 48 hours after police received the case, he said.
A less sophisticated scam that "inexperienced" people are falling for is the "black paper bills" scheme, Col Bursheed said. He showed a stack of black bills in a wrap made of fake currency. "The smell and the texture is similar to real bills."
Two African men were caught last week trying to scam people into paying large sums for the black bills, which the sellers claimed could be turned into real dollars by adding a magic substance, he said.
"In the beginning they would get real dollars and paint them black, so when they add the substance to it, the black paint fades away to reveal the real dollar bill," the colonel said, which would be used as a demonstration. "Then they would sell them the substance for a very high price."