Sydney Lemos, shot himself to infamy in the once upon a time get rich quick, sands of Dubai. He worked on a quintessential belief of many Goans that everything turns into gold in Dubai.
It is this glitter that still draws so many Goans, bereft of opportunity at home to grab at anything to make life in Dubai, or for that matter anywhere in the Gulf and the UK.
The Sydney Lemos fraud case, where this 37-year-old flashy Goan from Bardez, duped thousands of investors to invest in his forex trading company promising 120% returns, is an interesting twist since this is a case of a Goan conman, who managed to hoodwink international investors. A scam of 300 million dollars known as the Exential Forex Scam is huge, where 7000 UAE residents have been duped. But Lemos, the Goan scamster took in his wake unsuspecting Goan brethren too who followed their golden dream, which turned into ashes.
While Lemos will spent his life in a Dubai prison having been sentenced to 517 years of jail by the Dubai Misdemeanours Court, his wife Valany, who too has been convicted according to reports in the Gulf Media, is reported to be still in Goa, living in a flashy bungalow and driving super high-end cars.
The tragedy here is that Lemos has taken down a simple middle class Goan Ryan D'Souza, his accountant from Siolim who even got his father’s hard earned savings to be invested in the company. And the news from Dubai is that the investigating authorities are looking for some Goans who were associated with him in his business. It is still unclear, whether they happened to be in the company at this time or were partners in crime. The former is far more likely.
There are so many Ryan D'Souzas, (for whom people in Siolim have launched an online petition for justice and will organise a solidarity meet at the St Anthony Church ground) who sell and dip into their parent’s savings to somehow leave Goa. Some very unlucky ones are duped by agents, the lucky few do get decent jobs, while many others become sea farers. But increasingly one is hearing of stories of Goans in the Gulf and in the UK, living in pathetic conditions, sharing a one room flat with ten people and doing menial jobs. The desperation to do well and then make some money on the side, often leads to Goans getting duped.
It is important for those in Goa, to see the seriousness of the scam, not from the prism of UAE residents getting duped (which cannot be condoned though) but by realising that one of our own has ruined the future of others. Ryan D'Souza is just 25 and languishing in a Dubai jail. But there could be many who have invested in such fraudulent schemes and have nothing to fall back on.
All this while, governments have not managed to sensitise those who want to move to the West for better lives and livelihoods, of the dangers and pitfalls of wrong choices.
In Goa, civil society needs to work with voluntary organisations and supported by government on extensively working on an awareness campaign to prevent Goan brothers and sisters from falling prey to such dubious sharks.