The jewelry group in qustion has been identified as Atlas Jewellery and the missing owner as Indian businessman Atlas Ramachandran. Ramachandran and his daughter Manju have been reportedly arrested by Dubai police after a number of banks lodged complaints over bounced cheques. Last week, 15 banks met in Dubai to discuss growing concerns over the financial health of the jewelry chain that owes them an estimated Dh550 million (US$ 150 million) and has allegedly defaulted on payments. Some banks are planning to lodge a formal complaint of “wilful default and financial fraud” with the Central Bank. Atlas Jewellery, founded three decades ago, currently has over four dozen stores in the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Industry insiders have criticized the banks for lending so much money to a jeweller who was known to have been facing financial problems for the last decade, but one official from a local bank involved in the Ramachandran case said: “We had a banking relationship with the group for more than three decades and had a sound relationship with them. We lent him money after due diligence based on the audited balance sheets of the company each year, which did not show any such losses. This is a case of wilful diversion of funds and not a result of losses of many years.” This case comes just days after a Belgian diamond wholesale dealer also fled after amassing many millions in debts.