Indian philanthropist says fund to free expats from UAE jails may exceed $1m

Merchant said he expects 3,000 prisoners overstaying in jails to be released
An Indian businessman and philanthropist is “more than willing” to spend over $1 million to free expats, owing debts, from UAE jails.
By Parag Deulgaonkar
Thu 26 Jan 2017 09:28 AM

An Indian businessman and philanthropist is “more than willing” to spend over $1 million (AED3.67 million) to free expats, owing debts, from UAE jails.

On Wednesday, Firoz Merchant, chairman of Dubai-based Pure Gold Jewellers paid $40,872 (AED150,000) to clear debts and release 132 prisoners from Ajman Central Jail after pledging $1 million this year to help debt-burdened expats.

“Many of these prisoners have no debt and were overstaying in the prison since they don’t have money to buy air tickets,” he told Arabian Business.

The first batch of the released prisoners will leave the UAE in the next few days, with the Indian businessman expecting to release between 2,000 and 3,000 expats languishing in jails who are unable to buy return tickets to their home countries.

Ajman authorities have provided Merchant with a list of 300 prisoners and he will be working on release of another 100 prisoners next week, followed by the third batch thereafter.

Under the humanitarian initiative, which he started in 2008, Merchant has paid over $3 million (AED11 million).

“We were helping people last year, but our work was not on a large scale. 2016 has been a tough year for many expats who are facing debt issues,” he said.

Merchant will soon be approaching authorities in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain to get the list of prisoners that he can help.

“The list of prisoners is provided to us by the authorities. They are ones who suggest us their names and we follow their advice,” he said.

Only prisoners who have loans of not more than $8,174 (AED30,000) are considered.

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Last Updated: Mon 06 Feb 2017 09:45 AM GST

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