DUBAI // Financial regulators have shut down a foreign exchange trading scheme in Dubai that promised investors they could more than double their money.

Exential Group in Dubai Media City was ordered to cease trading on Sunday as the Department of Economic Development investigates complaints by clients that due payments had dried up.

The company promised annual returns of up to 120 per cent, but investors who have tried to close their accounts have not been paid money owed.

Many ploughed their life savings into the fund and took out personal bank loans to invest more.

Maubeen Gulzar, 30, who works across the Middle East and earns about Dh290,000 a year, opened two accounts – one in 2014 and another in February last year. He put $40,000, (Dh146,926) into the scheme.

“I was first told about Exential in October 2014 by a colleague who works in Dubai. He had invested and was making money,” said Mr Gulzar.

Initially, Exential paid returns of US$1,800 a month on Mr Gulzar’s investment and he chose to keep the profit locked into the fund.

He withdrew $12,000 last year but has not been paid anything this year, and has asked for his accounts to be closed.

“My relationship manager tried to explain that banking restrictions were preventing Exential from paying out, and he tried to convince me to continue investing. I said I wanted my money back ASAP,” said Mr Gulzar.

“I waited a month and hadn’t received any money, updates or emails.

“I finally got hold of someone and they said they would backdate the profits if I kept the account open. I was owed $60,000 at this point.

“It’s got to the point where I’ve almost given up on seeing the money again. I think these schemes attract people in by greed.”

Afzal Shaik, 47, an administrator in the construction industry, earns Dh20,000 a month and borrowed Dh74,000 on a credit card to open an account.

“I have lost everything. I have a family here, I have big monthly repayments to make.”

David, an IT engineer in Nairobi who has never been to Dubai, was encouraged to invest $40,000.

“A friend in Dubai showed me her returns and they were good,” he said. “I have a young daughter and a wife, who does not work, to support. I have had to sell my car. It is very stressful.”

Julie, from the Philippines, invested $50,000 – almost 20 times her monthly wage.

“I signed the notice of my account closure on June 2,” she said. “I am willing to wait even up to a year but, beyond that, no way. I’ve suffered enough.”

Investors have been advised to lodge complaints with the Department of Economic Development’s business protection department. Each complaint will cost Dh2,020 to submit.

Exential issued a statement on social media: “The office was visited by DED and was ordered to close the office in result to the complaints which were submitted to DED by clients.

“We are working to resolve this situation at the earliest and we will be back to normal operations as soon as possible.

“This is normal practice by DED and will be resolved by us as we are committed to carry on the business. Any other information that states anything else is not accurate. We urge you to remain calm as we are working to resolve the issue.”