x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Riots shut UAE Exchange's UK operations

UAE Exchange has closed its UK operations after a branch in South London was engulfed in flames as looters ran wild amid the city's worst unrest in decades.

Firemen damp down smouldering buildings in Croydon.The back of the complex housing the UAE Exchange was completely gutted.
Firemen damp down smouldering buildings in Croydon.The back of the complex housing the UAE Exchange was completely gutted.

UAE Exchange has closed its UK operations after a branch in South London was engulfed in flames as looters ran wild amid the city's worst unrest in decades.

The Abu Dhabi currency house's Croydon branch was sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a property estate agent in a block of buildings ravaged by marauding arsonists on Monday night.

The back of the complex was burned to the ground but pictures showed the UAE Exchange facade was intact after fire crews extinguished the flames.

BR Shetty, the company's managing director and chief executive, said the branch's staff were safe and no cash was lost. The store had closed just hours before the building was torched.

"All branches are closed in the UK - nine branches in total," Mr Shetty said. "It's very sad it happened, but everything is under control."

He said he was planning to fly to London today to assess the damage. The store was insured, he said.

"It's a nice building, a good shop, a good outlet," he said. "The whole building was burned."

The UAE Exchange has seven storefronts scattered about the south-east of England including Croydon, East Ham and Wembley.

UAE Exchange also has a presence in Birmingham, where looting and riots erupted on Tuesday. Three people died in Birmingham on Tuesday night amid escalating violence.

The UAE Exchange's offices in the UK are just a small part of a global business empire that spans five continents and 24 countries. The company operates more than 50 branches in the UAE and more than 100 in India, where it serves as a conduit for remittances by foreign workers.

It was founded in Abu Dhabi in 1980, and first opened offices in the UK in 2003.

Riots and looting have gripped several cities in England for the past four days, starting in London before spreading.

Authorities have made more than 470 arrests as politicians try to quell discontent that began on Saturday after a protest in Tottenham over the shooting of a local man, allegedly by police, turned violent.

While politics were initially at the fore of the violence, the turmoil has also been pinned to the plight of the UK's urban poor after recent government spending cuts.

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, said yesterday that his government had begun to fight back against the mayhem.

Police have been mobilised in droves and water cannons put at the ready to respond to further trouble in the streets. Police have been authorised to use rubber bullets.

afitch@thenational.ae