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Lemos (37) and Ryan de Souza (25) were convicted of duping thousands of investors in a Ponzi scheme that offered investors 120% annual returns on a minimum investment of $25,000 through his company Exential. The company paid profits initially but stopped paying investors after the scheme collapsed in March 2016 and the Dubai Economic Department shut down the company’s offices in July 2016. A case has also been registered against Lemos’s wife, Valany Cardozo, for illegally entering the sealed office in December last year and taking out documents.
Lemos came to prominence in 2015 when his company, FC Prime Markets (FC denoting forex and commodities), became the principal sponsor of FC Goa, the Goan franchise in the Indian Super League. He had a front-row seat to Indian football’s glamorous league and easy access to big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Abhishek Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor, all of whom are associated with the cashrich league. Lemos and Valany also had no difficulty rubbing shoulders with football’s biggest names, like Zico, and even Ronaldinho, to who they were introduced at VIP Room, a popular nightclub in Dubai renowned for its celeb clientele.
But it’s a five-second personal video recorded by Brazil superstar Neymar for Valany that takes the cake. Recorded in Portuguese, Neymar can be seen delivering a personal message to Valany and sending her a “big hug and kiss”. Lemos, who is from Mapusa in Goa, was arrested first in December 2016 but was let out on bail. He was arrested again in mid-January last year.
Sydney Lemos’s senior accounts specialist Ryan De Souza, a resident of Siolim, was held at Dubai airport in February last year as he was leaving for India while Valany managed to escape to Goa. “These are false accusations made out of jealousy,” Valany told TOI. “Sydney definitely wants to help the clients and he is the only one who can,” she said, adding, “This is not the final verdict.”
“The only reason he got convicted is because of the number of complaints (513 cases) filed against him,” she said, adding she had not given up hope. Many investors, like a Goan working in Dubai, believe Valany’s story despite losing their hard-earned money. “I lost 400,000 dhirams (around Rs 70 lakh). I got good returns initially which I reinvested. It was a bad investment,” he told TOI from Dubai. “I haven’t filed a complaint. I believe Sydney Lemos was trying to do something different but it backfired on us. If he was a crook he could have fled the country,” he said.
Ryan’s father, Martires de Souza, reckons there has been a mix-up. “How can Ryan receive the same sentence as the owner, Sydney Lemos? He only worked in accounts for four months before the company was sealed. Lemos’s right-hand man, the sales manager, has managed to escape,” he told TOI.
Denying that they ran a Ponzi scheme, Valany said the company, set up in 2011, paid regular profits till 2015 when it encountered a problem with the closure of one of their bank accounts. “It was a genuine problem and my husband promised to solve it. But the team leader in the company together with our competitors and some lawyers got together and brainwashed clients. They filed complaints and this kept escalating,” she claimed, adding, Ryan was “an innocent 25-year-old” employee of the company. Reports from Dubai said Lemos and Ryan can appeal but neither is likely to be released because even a huge reduction in their sentence would still result in a life term.