Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

There is no place for international fraudsters to hide

The message is clear: unscrupulous operators, who take advantage of hard-working people, will be caught

Renwick Haddow faces 40-years in prison after admitting to his part in a Bitcoin and office space investment scam. The National
Renwick Haddow faces 40-years in prison after admitting to his part in a Bitcoin and office space investment scam. The National

For years, the British fraudster Renwick Haddow left an international trail of ruined lives behind him. From a string of unsuccessful businesses to an attempt to con the owners of a well-known women’s magazine that resulted in him being banned from holding the position of company director by British regulators, his record of failure and malfeasance is mind-boggling. It is, however, his company Bar Works, and a separate Bitcoin racket, for which he will be remembered in the UAE.

Starting in 2015, Haddow held events in opulent hotels around the world. Designed to persuade unsuspecting investors to put money into a company that converted old bars and restaurants into shared workspaces, they were convincing and successful. Lured by the promise of quick profits, many signed up – only later to find that it was a sham. Up to 150 people from the UAE are believed to have suffered from Haddow’s duplicity.

Following his arrest in Morocco in 2017 and his subsequent extradition to the US, Haddow has now admitted his crimes to a New York court. He has agreed to co-operate with prosecutors in a bid to reduce a possible 40-year jail sentence. While this does nothing to repair the damage he has caused, it may give some comfort to victims to know that, thanks to modern policing methods and increased co-operation between international law-enforcement agencies, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the unscrupulous to take advantage of hard-working people.

Only last year, the UAE handed down 500-year sentences to Sydney Lemos and Ryan Fernandez for operating a bogus foreign-currency scheme. This verdict followed the conviction, a few months earlier, of the rogue financial adviser Neil Grant. The message is clear: criminals will be caught.

However, we should not just rely on the authorities. While falling for an elaborate scam is never the fault of the victim, we can all take a few simple steps to protect ourselves. First, do as much research as possible before placing your savings in anyone’s hands. Second, given that even legitimate investments can fall flat, don’t put all your money in one place. And, third, remember that if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is.

Updated: June 19, 2019 07:25 PM

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