Sharjah Police have launched a hunt for a gang who robbed an Indian expat of nearly Dh47,000 at knifepoint after luring him to an apartment for a massage session.
The incident took place at Sharjah’s Al Majaz neighbourhood in broad daylight on Sunday. The middle-age professional, who responded to a fake Facebook massage service ad, recounted his terrifying experience with Khaleej Times.
“I turned up at a first-floor apartment in a multi-storied building near Safya Park around 4 pm”, he said, “hoping to meet the same female masseur who had sent me her photos on WhatsApp.
Instead, I was attacked by a five-member gang.”
The Sharjah resident said he had barely entered the house when someone pulled him inside and slammed the door shut.
He said he was still in a daze when several pairs of hands dragged him into the bedroom.
“They were two men and three women of African ethnicity, and they had a murderous glare in their eyes. ‘Give me all your money, or else I will kill you,’ threatened their ringleader as he pulled out a big knife and held it to my neck,” he said.
“I had only Dh250 with me. I offered to give it to them and save my life, but they mocked me and pushed me onto the bed. As the women laughed wickedly, one of the men pinned me down on the bed while the other removed my trousers. I watched helplessly as he dug into my pockets and took out my cell phone as well as my wallet, which contained Dh250 in cash and four debit and credit cards.
The man said the ringleader forced him to disclose the PIN codes of each bank card and entered them into his cellphone.
“You can’t say no to someone who’s got the blade of a knife inches away from your throat.”
He said one of the men then left the apartment with his bank cards, saying he will be back soon.
“He returned around three hours later. The condition in the apartment was stifling as it had no fan or air-conditioning. I begged them to turn on the AC but they ignored me. They didn’t even let me use the washroom. When I persisted, they gave me a plastic bottle to relieve myself.”
The man was released around 7pm.
He said before letting him go, the assailants made him delete all WhatsApp chats with the purported masseur and told him that he would be jailed for seeking illegal massages if he complained to the police.
Another shock awaited him when he reached home and looked up his bank accounts online.
“I found out that they had withdrawn Dh46,505 from my cards from different locations in multiple transactions. I don’t have any money left. My bank account is zero and my credit limit has been maxed.”
He said he reported the incident to Buheirah Police Station which subsequently raided the apartment.
It was found empty. The building’s watchman said another victim had called him on Sunday morning claiming he was robbed of Dh400 when he visited the apartment for a massage.
An Arab woman who let out the apartment is being questioned.
Sharjah Police confirmed the incident, with an officer saying police teams have been formed to hunt down the culprits.
“Sharjah police will not tolerate those who come to the Emirate to threaten community security,” the officer said.
Both Sharjah and Dubai police reiterated their warnings to those seeking the service of unlicensed massage parlours.
Earlier this month Sharjah Police busted a gang that attracted massage seekers through business cards carrying lewd pictures, and then robbed them at knifepoint.
In a similar crackdown, Dubai Police have arrested 870 people in the past 15 months for offering illegal massage services. Nearly 6 million business cards that advertised these services were also seized.