Beware Hajj, Umrah fraud

2017-08-29 15:49
Attorney Riyaaz Parker, Shaykh Isghaak Cassiem, Najma Daniels attended the discussion.

Attorney Riyaaz Parker, Shaykh Isghaak Cassiem, Najma Daniels attended the discussion. (Shahied Johaardien)

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“Our money was not stolen. It was our dreams that were stolen.”

These are the emotional words of elderly guests attending a discussion on Hajj and Umrah fraud.

The event which took place at the Lounge on Kromboom in Rondebosch East on Monday saw locals from across the Mother City speak out during a pre-recording session set to air on DeenTV this week.

A fraud victim from Crawford, Anwar Mohan, says his family was set and ready to leave for their annual Umrah pilgrimage in December 2014, but were left in shock and disappointment on the day of departure.

“It was the most embarrassing and hurtful moment for my family and many other people set to depart on the day. People came to greet us, wishing us a safe journey. But things soon became suspicious when we waited for hours on the airport with no sign of our travel agency operator Shaheed Stakala,” says Mohan. 

“Our group realised that something is definitely wrong and that we won’t be fulfilling our dreams of going on Umrah after days of waiting and immense tension. I remember Stakala being brought in to the Lamy offices on the day and people demanded their money back. We wanted to know where the money was and why there are problems with the travelling arrangements,” explains Mohan.

“A laptop was brought in and people demanded him to open his banking account, but he wouldn’t. He made all sorts of excuses that the travelling company he booked with ran away with the money. Some of the pilgrims beat him up because of hurt and anger.”

Stakala, the director Gairoonisa Foundation, is one of many who made headlines in the media for Hajj and Umrah fraud in 2013. Hundreds of pilgrims believe they were conned after they paid him thousands of Rands for pilgrimage which did not materialise. The anguished group of pilgrims along with Mohan opened a civil case of fraud and theft under false pretences against Stakala.

Being accused of not delivering on an agreement to provide subsided packages, an arrest was made seeing Stakala kept in police custody at Philippi Police Station in 2013.

An emotional Mohan says he is hurt and still trying to come to terms as to why anyone would do something like this.

“What hurts more is that there were elderly people in our group who also paid money. Some of them have passed on and have not seen their lifelong dreams materialise. They came walking in with crutches with excitement on the day. This is sad because it also affected my family. We spent years saving this money and waiting for this moment in life, for someone to just come and take it away. I just have one message for this man. If you claim you did not steal our money, then why are you hiding? Face us like a man and do what is Islamically right. Give all these people their money back.”

Stakala told People’s Post “to refer all questions to the investigating officer who dealt with that case during 2013 to 2015”.

“These claims were tested in a court of law during that period and now these people with disgruntled former executive members, Sakeena Moyce from Umm Abdun Nur and Yaasien Fortune have approached ‘GossipTV’ as last option,” he says. “Unless you have any questions regarding Hajj and Ramadaan Umrah price fixing, Stakala Consortium under the auspices of Gaironiesa Foundation will stand firm as a rock in the sea amongst the ever growing waves of wolves each fighting for the lion’s share of the R675m industry.”

On social media, Stakala continues to advertise Hajj and Umrah services, promising to get people into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without a Visa. He currently also has a competition running which promises seven free tickets. All this whilst complaints continue to pour in and more people have come out enquiring legal steps they can take in order to get their money back.

Faizal Sayed, the CEO of DeenTV, says a show featuring different facets of Hajj and Umrah fraud is set to air this month. The episode informs viewers of the current status of these cases and ultimately was produced to warn and educate people.

According to Sayed, the series has aired a number of episodes dealing with the issue since last year.

“This time around, we focus on a particular alleged fraudulent operator who his guest on TV said has afflicted more than 200 people. When invited to the show, Stakala demanded R150k from Deen TV and the Deen Media Group as an appearance fee to appear on the show,” he says. The network declined the payment and Stakala himself never showed up after another invite on Monday.

- This episode of The Faizal Sayed Show airs on Tuesday 5 September at 20:00 on Deen TV and CTV, DSTV 263, and on Saturday 9 September at 18:30.

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