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Why 500 years in jail for two Goans shouldn’t stun you
“Lemos deliberately portrayed this lifestyle to convince investors that the company, Exential, was doing very well. It was in no way a scheme that failed. It seemed like a planned fraud right from the start,” an acquaintance of Lemos told TOI from Dubai.
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Sydney Lemos with his wife Valany Lemos
Lemos, 37, was sentenced on Sunday by a Dubai court to over 500 years in jail for duping thousands of investors in a $200 million scam.
Lemos, who is from Mapusa and owned a football club FC Bardez in Dubai, got Goan boys—mostly young footballers—to work for him. “He paid them a minimum of DHS 10,000 a month, when forex companies in Dubai pay between 5,000 and 7,000 dirhams,” the acquaintance said.
Sydney Lemos: From Goa boy to global scamster
“The company running the Ponzi scheme had to look genuine and not like some fly-by-night operator. So, the boys were asked to put on suits and pretend to be busy in office, when in fact there was no work. Lemos’ cabin was always locked and out of bounds for the office staff,” he said.
With no experience and a hefty pay packet, the boys, some of whom were working in supermarkets before joining Exential, did not raise any questions. “The employees were treated to extravagant parties every week and could post pictures on Facebook only after permission from Valany,” he said.
‘Sydney came across as simple’
Besides these extravagant parties, Lemos also treated his staff to two foreign trips and they would be taken along when he bought a new car. When he renewed his vows on Palm Islands in Dubai in 2015 at an extravagant ceremony, the pictures were all over Facebook.
“He would keep posting flashy pictures of parties in high-end clubs and with his cars. Once he knew authorities were after him, he deactivated his account,” said another acquaintance also in Dubai.
But what made him move up the social circuit ladder was when he became the principal sponsor of FC Goa football club in 2015. “He must have got thousands of accounts registered after that. Everybody was talking about it,” he said.
There are rumours that Lemos brought his Ferrari to Goa from Dubai to coincide with his FC Goa deal.
“It was very lucrative to have your money double in 14 months and I was ready to open three accounts totaling $75,000,” the acquaintance said. Lemos lured the investors by offering them 120% annual returns on a minimum investment of $25,000 in a Ponzi scheme that was disguised as forex operations.
“I felt something was not right when I asked them for a security check on my investment. After repeated follow ups, I found that they were not forthcoming. Their contract was also vague, so I didn’t go through with it. Unfortunately, people didn’t care about the paper work. Word of mouth was more powerful,” he said.
“Sydney came across as a simple boy. This kind of face value is necessary to sell a scheme like this,” he said.
But not all of them trusted their gut instinct and fell for his charms.
“My friend who worked for Emirates was so convinced by the scheme that he took a loan to open an account. He didn’t listen to my advice. He lost his job when the company was downsizing and couldn’t even pay his EMI,” he said.
But this acquaintance of Lemos believes that 27-year-old Ryan D’Souza, who has also been sent to jail for over 500 years, is innocent. “Ryan got his visa cancelled and was due to travel to Goa but there was a travel ban on the employees of only Exential but not of FC Prime Markets. So, when Ryan was detained at the airport, his friend working at FC Prim Markets was allowed to leave for India as the authorities couldn’t establish a link between the two companies,” he added.