x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Charity begins at home for generous jeweller

A prominent UAE businessman has pledged to spend Dh3 million each year to free expatriate prisoners in the country, pay off their debts and fly them back to their home country.

Firoz Merchant, the chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, last year helped 700 insolvent prisoners and paid their airfares home. Pawan Singh / The National
Firoz Merchant, the chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, last year helped 700 insolvent prisoners and paid their airfares home. Pawan Singh / The National

A prominent businessman has pledged to spend Dh3 million (US$816,704) each year to free expatriate prisoners in the UAE, paying off their debts and flying them back to their home countries.

Firoz Merchant, the chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, last year helped 700 insolvent prisoners and paid their airfares home.

"I believe in humanity," said Mr Merchant. "Whoever has experience they use their experience. My experience says always help others."

Pure Gold, which runs and owns more than 100 stores across the Middle East, is involved in philanthropic work with many bodies in the UAE, including the Red Crescent Society and the Zakat Fund Abu Dhabi.

"I'm not doing it with just the prisoners, I'm doing work with many charities in UAE and India," said Mr Merchant.

Last year, the Zakat Fund Abu Dhabi pledged Dh230,000 to free 10 debt prisoners in the UAE, as a result of a donation from Pure Gold. Mr Merchant now aims to spend Dh3m a year by paying off Dh20,000 to Dh25,000 of a person's debts through one of the charities with which he works. His goal is to help 50 people a month.

"I have a target of spending at least Dh3m each year, just on prisoners," he said.

"I am in process to sign the contract to all the emirates' director generals of police."

He has so far helped prisoners from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

Mr Merchant, an Indian, helps all nationalities of prisoners in debt, but asks that those he supports have been jailed for one of three reasons: they cannot pay debts related to healthcare costs; they owe education fees; or have been jailed for bounced home rental cheques.

rjones@thenational.ae

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