THE NEWS FROM UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Dh 20 Million Wafi heist - the Story
At the time of going to press that’s what insurance officials had pegged the amount of jewellery stolen from the Graff store in last night’s armed robbery at Wafi City
Dubai - April 17: At the time of going to press, a top source at Graff revealed to the Evening Post that insurance officials were still evaluating the losses incurred by Graff jewellery store at Wafi City after yesterday’s armed robbery, but initial estimate had a figure of at least Dh 20 million. “We are still assessing the store with the insurance officials and this is not the final figure. It can increase. Display pieces have been robbed and they were all precious diamonds.” Four armed men in two cars had stormed Wafi Mall yesterday and made off with a huge amount of jewellery from the Graff store.
Even as the video footage of yesterday’s armed robbery at the Graf jewellery store at Wafi City was the must-see of the morning, eye-witness accounts, including one from the person who shot the video, were useful in reconstructing in some detail the manner in which the robbery happened. The facts of the case are more or less clearly ascertained now: the robbery took place at 9.30 p.m. after the robbers crashed through the front entrance of Wafi Mall in two cars and robbed the high-value store located close to front on the ground floor. The robbers broke the glass of the main display and were seen carrying hammers and guns. The cars used by the robbers were reportedly found abandoned and burnt.
Robbers had studied area carefully: Police
At the time of going to press Dubai Police were still investigating the robbery and refused to divulge any further details. Brigadier Adul Mahdi Mohammed, Deputy Director, General Department of Preventive Security, told the Evening Post, “There is no doubt the robbers had studied the area carefully. We are still investigating the case and going through all the footage.”
Eyewitnesses recount Dubai’s most daring heist yet
The first eyewitness the Evening Post spoke to works in the jewellery store Chopard, which is adjacent to Graf. “A white Audi entered the mall and parked close to the store, followed by a black Audi that took a turn and crashed into the store in reverse gear. Once they had parked their cars in a manner that they could exit from the same entrance, three men got out of the cars, while one remained in the white car. The car was tinted and the men wore black masks. After a minute or so, the man seated in the car started pressing the horn. The men emerged out of the shops with two bags full of jewellery and used the same entrance as the escape route,” the man explained, adding that the black Audi exited first.
Another eyewitness, who shot some footage of the heist, added, “Clearly, the men were professionals. They were driving Audi A8s and the driver of the black car left the car door open. They came in like a storm. It was clear they knew what they wanted to rob, because they were out of the mall in just a few minutes.”
Other stores feared they were next
As the robbers crashed through the front windows of Graff, stores adjacent feared they were going to be robbed next. A eyewitness from Renee Jewellers, said, “We were shocked to hear a loud banging sound and then sound of bullets. We immediately hit the security emergency button in our shop. We locked it from outside and left because we were worried that they would want to rob our store as well.”
Another lady who was about to shut her clothing store four shops away from Graff, adds, “I was shocked to see the men all dressed in black with guns. I thought they would enter other stores as well. I just froze near my display window. It was like a movie.”
Video footage spreads like wildfire
Even as residents of Dubai woke up to the shocking news of an armed robbery at Wafi Mall, it didn’t take long before a video footage of the crime got the residents hooked to their computer screens. This was probably the first time in Dubai that a video of a crime-in-action, supposedly recorded by an eyewitness, was being circulated among the residents, and the whole world now, within so few hours after the crime was committed. The video of the crime had already been linked on several popular local blogs and community sites and has been attracting comments and analysis from hundreds of viewers. The original blog site where the video was put up had already garnered over 150 replies when the Evening Post went to print. Conspiracy theories about the thieves, their stolen vehicles and the police’s investigations were also doing the rounds on the local cyberspace network.
Wafi, a soft target?
This is not the first time that Wafi City has been exposed to a robbery. Last year, Ahmed Siddique, a store that sells watches was robbed. In fact the store’s outlets in Wafi and Burjuman were robbed on the same day. In the light of this incident, the question is whether Wafi is looking at beefing up security. Sally Meech, Public Relations Manager, Wafi City, said, “We have recently upgraded our security. We work with the police, so we upgraded it in line with the current legislation. If required, we will make changes again. Right now it is too early to say if we will increase our security, but we are looking into it.” “At the moment we are focusing on co-ordinating with the police officials to carry out their investigations,” she added. One of the favourite venues for events and exhibitions in Dubai, Wafi Mall is located in Wafi City, a popular tourist attraction of Dubai. The mall is easily recognisable because of its distinct Egyptian-themed architecture. The mall is part of the Wafi complex family that includes a residential complex and Raffles, the group’s five star hotel that is set to open this year in June.
The premier mall is now home to 225 shops and over 1,000 leading fashion brands. It also boasts a flurry of restaurants, rooftop gardens and a spa.
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A university professor trapped in a shop as masked gunmen with machine guns ram raided a jewellery store at a Dubai shopping mall has spoken of his blind terror as the robbery unfolded. Rick Carraway, an architect teaching at the American University of Sharjah, was shopping at Wafi City on Sunday evening when the armed robbers sped two high-powered Audi cars through the glass entrance doors and smashed one into the front of Graff jewellers. “I was absolutely stunned. It was the wildest thing I had ever seen in my life. There was a deafening crash and these cars sped into the mall. Shoppers were screaming, panicking and running away,” Carraway said.
“A number of people dressed entirely in black from head to foot leapt out of the vehicles. I thought there had been some sort of road rage incident. Then we realised they were holding machine guns and my fears turned to terror. “My initial reaction was that they were terrorists hunting for hostages. My friend and I were speechless just watching in amazement. I am sure a number of shots were fired. There were so many sounds - people screaming, glass breaking and alarms screeching. It was like watching a James Bond movie.” Carraway, who was in another jewellery store with his Arabic friend and a shop assistant, said they screamed at the cashier to lock the doors as they scrambled on their knees to hide in a closet at the back of the store. “The poor guy who worked in the store was crying and trembling. I think he soiled himself,” Carraway added. “I knelt down in that closet and started praying.” After a few minutes the three ventured to the front of the shop and saw police already at the scene. “I thought the best thing to do was get out of there. I didn’t sleep at all and it has just been replaying through my mind time and time again.” A spokesman for BinHendi Group, owners of Graff Jewellery, told 7DAYS yesterday that there was $10-12 million worth of jewellery kept in the shop. Last night there were unconfirmed reports that police had arrested five men across the UAE in connection with the robbery.
Ayesha still in hospital, others are discharged
SHARJAH — April 17: Ayesha, the five-year-old Bangladeshi girl who is a victim of suspected food poisoning, continues to remain under the watchful eyes of the doctors, while other members of her family were discharged from the hospital yesterday.
Khadija, the younger sister of Ayesha, had earlier died of suspected food poisoning as the six-member family of businessman Mohammed Mijanour were admitted to the Al Qasimi Hospital in serious condition on early Saturday morning after reportedly consuming food purchased from Pak Ghazi Restaurant in Sharjah.
They had all suffered severe bouts of vomiting, diarrhoea and excessive sweating after a night-out.
The Sharjah Police and Municipality are yet to issue their reports on the case.
Doctors at the Coronary Care Unit at Al Qasimi Hospital said Ayesha’s father had been discharged after he recovered remarkably.
The doctors, however, confirmed that Ayesha’s heart contractions were abnormal and she was still under observation. “It is still too early to say what could have been affecting her. We have carried out blood cultures but we cannot say what the cause of the illness is,” said the doctor in-charge.
Meanwhile, the Sharjah Police Forensic Laboratory yesterday carried out an autopsy on the three-year-old Khadija. The report is expected within 48 hours, said officials.
Abdullah Al Shuiakh, spokesperson for Sharjah Municipality said the municipality had yesterday taken food samples from the restaurant and would issue a report after conducting comprehensive tests.
Psychiatrist gets the sack
DUBAI — April 17: The Ministry of Education (MoE) yesterday terminated the services of a psychiatrist who beat up a seven-year-old student as part of his ‘treatment’, according to a source in the Ajman Educational Zone.
Khaleej Times carried a report on how the Grade II student of Ibn Taymiyya primary school, who had reportedly been showing violent behaviour in school over the past few days, was beaten up by the psychiatrist in his classroom.
The source said, “The investigation conducted by the MoE’s Legal Affairs wing found that the child was ill-treated. When interrogated, the psychiatrist admitted to holding a treatment session only for 10 minutes.”
The psychiatrist was appointed by the Ajman Educational Zone to treat the child following a request from the school.
ME airports keen on using biometric tech
DUBAI — April 17: Most countries in the Middle East region have been keen on fully adopting the use of biometric technology in ensuring airport and ground security, says an industry specialist.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, Ronald Hack, Principal Consultant-Business Development e-Identity and Biometric Solutions of LogicaCMG, said that their company has been in coordination with government agencies in the region following inquiries about the technology.
“It (biometrics) is now developing in the region. Several countries in the Middle East, including the UAE, already have national identification cards with microchip that carries relevant information about the cardholder. Some countries are also developing programmes for e-Passports,” he said.
e-Passports or Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) will be required in all the 188 contracting countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) by April 10, 2010. Currently around 110 countries, including the United States, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and those in the European Union, are issuing MRTDs.
“Within the next few years, it is likely that citizens of Middle East countries will also be issued e-Passports,” Hack said.
Through biometrics, a person’s identification can be easily established using his/her own physiological or behavioral characteristics like facial feature, iris (through eye scan), or fingerprint.
Hack explained that biometrics became more popular following the September 11, 2001 (9/11) incident. “The technology was used originally by some European airports in the e-Gate system for ther Loyalty Programme, so as to encourage frequent travellers to use their airport. But following 9/11, it had been seen as a means of promoting security apart from convenient travelling,” he said.
LocalCMG, which has its base in the Middle East and Europe, recently launched in Dubai its multi-modal biometrics technology called e-Identity BioFUSE which is capable of detecting a particular face in a crowd of more than 1,000 people using gender, facial, iris, and fingerprint information.
This technology, said Hack, has been installed in major airports worldwide and helped improve airport security since it allows police authorities to identify a suspect on their blacklist.
“All those biometric information will be stored in a database and used to find the wanted person,” he said.
Hack also assured that the technology is sophisticated enough to distinguish the physiological differences between identical twins since eye and fingerprint are unique identity marks.
He, however, said that while the biometric solutions have been developed to be of the highest quality, 100 per cent accuracy can only be guaranteed by adhering to a high standard of application.
“There will always be the human factor. As solution provider, we can develop the technology but the procedures on how to maximise the use of that technology can only be decided upon by the customer,” he said.