News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Diamonds heist case cracked

DUBAI — APRIL 30:Dubai Police have announced the arrest of two persons in the sensational Wafi City shopping centre heist on April 15. A third suspect in the robbery at the Graff jewellery shop in the mall, has been arrested in an unnamed European country.

The police said that a request for the extradition of the third suspect had already been issued to the authorities of the concerned country.

It was the biggest heist in Dubai. According to the police, the value of the stolen diamonds was nearly Dh15 million.

The robbers had rammed their vehicles into the shop and decamped with the jewellery in just one minute and 45 seconds. They fled in two stolen cars used by the gang.

The arrests were announced by Dubai Police Chief, Lieutenant-General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, during a Press conference at the Police Headquarters yesterday. Also present were Brigadier Khamis Mattar Al Mazina, Director of the General Department of Crime Investigation, and Colonel Ahmed Khalifa bin Hamad, Director of the General Department of Forensic Science.

Brig. Al Mazina said: "Officers from Dubai Police have left for foreign countries which I will not name now, to question the third man and collect more data."

"The diamonds stolen in the heist, which are worth nearly Dh15 million, have been returned to their rightful owners," Lt-Gen. Dhahi said.

Disclosing the case details, Lt-Gen. Dhahi said the robbers had burnt one of the stolen cars they had used and drove away in another car to an abaya shop in Dubai where they bought abayas to cover themselves.

Lt-Gen. Dhahi further disclosed that the gang members had used toy guns in the robbery and that they had hidden the stolen jewellery in a rented car.

Six hours after the robbery, three of the gang members left Dubai for a European country. The rest remained in the emirate.

Among the two persons arrested by Dubai Police is one who had provided logistic support to the gang, including arranging for visa, accommodation, and the two stolen cars used in the heist, he added.

Lt-Gen. Dhahi said that CID officials, who were confident that the jewellery stolen in the heist was still in Dubai, had set traps to nab the gang before they could succeed in transporting the jewellery to another country.

One of the accused, who was referred to by their team as "General Secretary", had come to the UAE for the first time. He was arrested on Saturday evening when he was about to get into one of the stolen cars used in the robbery, Lt. Gen. Dhahi disclosed.

The stolen jewellery was recovered from the car, he added.

The Dubai Police chief said that the gang members, all from Eastern Europe, had been allegedly using fake passports of dead persons killed in some of the recent conflicts in these countries. One of the accused possessed 14 fake passports, Lt-Gen. Dhahi disclosed, while refusing to divulge the exact number of  gang members involved in the heist.


Hello! This is virus speaking...

DUBAI — APRIL 30: It's a rumour that has travelled a fair distance to reach the shores of Dubai.

Workers in several parts of the emirate have stopped receiving calls on their mobile phones, "especially those from unknown sources", as they are worried that a deadly virus could be transmitted through the cellular phones, and could claim their lives.

The rumours had reportedly started doing the rounds a week ago in Pakistan and then crossed over to neighbouring Afghanistan, where a large number of mobile users were reported to be panicking over the "killer virus" that was supposed to have "killed some people".

As the rumours started doing the rounds in Dubai, some residents of labour camps in Sonapur and Al Quoz areas have stopped answering phone calls from the numbers they suspect as ‘unknown.’

Subheesh Kumar, a labourer who lives in Sonapur, said he had stopped answering mobile calls from unknown numbers after he was informed about the ‘killer virus’ by some of his colleagues. He said several workers in Sonapur were scared, like him, to use their mobile phones.  Anoop, a resident of Al Quoz, said: "I have stopped answering calls from unknown numbers. I don't know whether this is true or not, but I just decided to take precaution." Information Technology (IT)  and medical experts have rubbished the claims, saying mobile devices cannot transmit viruses.

Yousuf Khoory, Technical Support Manager of i-mate, the company that produces the ultimate cross platform compatibility device, said it's impossible for biological viruses to spread through mobile phones. "It is plain rumour," he said.  Another IT specialist in the Dubai Internet City said, "mobile devices are low power transceivers. The typical maximum output power of a mobile phone is 2 watts and the highest frequency is 2 giga hertz. This can, in no, way harm a human being."

Dr. Jamaluddin Abu Baker of Metro Medical Centre in Ajman, confirmed: "Biological viruses cannot be transferred through electronic devices since they are air-borne or water-borne."


Online matrimonial services in demand

DUBAI — APRIL 30: Anupam Mittal, the creator of Shaadi.Com, one of the world's largest matrimonial web sites, has said the demand for their services in the UAE is on the rise and Dubai will soon become the headquarters for its operations in Africa, the Asia Pacific region and Pakistan.

Mittal said they were eyeing the GCC states and would soon be the first Indian company to enter the Pakistani market.

"Our market in the UAE has increased over the past few years. The growth has been tremendous. Now we would be using our base in Dubai to strengthen our upcoming markets in Africa, the entire Middle East, Asia Pacific, South Asia, etc. What is really encouraging is that the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh are also using Shaadi.Com," he said.

Mittal said the "mantra" for the portal's success in the UAE or for that matter, any other part of the world was its understanding of the cultural sentiments of different nationalities.


Car rental firms voice concern about Salik

DUBAI — APRIL 30: At a workshop held at the Shangri La Hotel yesterday, owners and managers of the car rental industry voiced their concerns to the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) over the Dubai road toll system, "Salik", which is set to be implemented from July this year.

Over 100 car rental companies in Dubai will be affected by the toll system.

While the entire industry will be affected, owners of larger fleets of cars will have to incur bigger financial costs, they opined.

Several issues were discussed at the workshop, including the system's operation, corporate accounts, tag distributions etc. The car rental operators pointed to the more complicated administrative procedures as a result of the toll system.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Sunil Kumar, National Rental Operations Manager at Hertz, a major car rental company, said the RTA should issue reusable sticker tags, especially for the car rental industry vehicles. "We have nearly 6,000 vehicles. If we pay Dh50 for buying the tags at a corporate price, then the initial cost for us will come to Dh300,000. We'll also have to shell out another Dh300,000 per month because we need to keep a minimum balance of Dh50 in the tag or else pay a fine," he explained.

Kumar said the plans were also not logistically viable for the company because of a large number of cars are either sold off or taken out of service by the company. "This will imply extra spending on buying stickers each time we have a new car. Moreover, our nature of business is such that we have to use the Shaikh Zayed Road and Garhoud Bridge," he pointed out.

However, Eng. Badr Al Siri, Director of the Traffic Department at RTA, who was conducting the workshop, brushed aside the industry's concerns, saying: "It is only a one time hassle as the tags can be used for life and renewed easily."

Mazahir Zakt, Manager Rental Operations at AVIS, another car rental company, said the RTA and the rental industry still needed to discuss the modality for streamlining the new system for smoother operations. "The Dubai Car Rental Group (DCRG) will have meetings with RTA to sort out the issues," he said.

He added: "It is very likely that we'll have to pass on the additional costs to the customers as we have a huge fleet of cars to maintain. At present we have over 7,500 rental vehicles, and over 1,000 chauffeur driven cars and buses."

Lal Singh from Sixt Rent-a-Car Company also said they would be incurring nearly Dh40,000 extra on their fleet of 400 cars. "Besides, there is extra leg work required for registration and buying of stickers," he added.


Asians Will Continue to Work

ABU DHABI — April 30: Asians will continue to work on fishing boats, according to Thabit Zahran Al Abdul Salam, Director of Marine Research Centre, Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.

He said the resolution issued yesterday with regard to regulation of commercial fishing boats had made it mandatory for boat owners to be on board vessels in the presence of  Asian or non-Asian workers.

He said complaints lodged by fishermen about permissible qarqou (fishing nets) were being looked into.

Speaking on the resolution, Humaid Al Rumaithi, Director of the Abu Dhabi Fishermen's Society, said, ''Asian workers in the fishing industry will remain on board boats under supervision of their owners." 

The resolution, he said, will no doubt boost the industry in Abu Dhabi. ''Fishermen in Abu Dhabi should be granted the same privileges bestowed on their peers in the Northern Emirates."


Sleep disorder could be fatal if left untreated

ABU DHABI — April 30: Do you stop breathing for a few seconds while asleep? Do you snore heavily? Is your sleep interrupted by a sudden arousal? If the answer is yes, you might be suffering from 'Sleep Apnoea' and you should get yourself checked because it might be a serious problem.

"Sleep Apnoea is temporary absence or cessation of breathing while sleeping. This could be fatal in some cases if left untreated," cautioned Dr Wagih Djazmati, Consultant, Intensivist and Pulmonologist at Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Dr Djazmati said that up to 2 per cent of the female population and around 4 per cent of male population in the UAE suffer from this type of sleep disorder.

However, most of the patients are not aware of the problem, or the seriousness of the problem, Dr Djazmati added.

Sleep Apnoea is very common among obese people and patients having severe snoring problem. However, it can be present among others as well, especially old patients or those having chronic diseases like heart disease. "Only 30 to 40 per cent of the patients with Sleep Apnoea are obese," he noted.

Sudden sleep, persistent headache, loss of concentration and hypertension which is resistant to medication, are the common symptoms of Sleep Apnoea, Dr Djazmati said. "Around 50 to 70 per cent of the Sleep Apnoea patients suffer from persistent hypertension," he pointed out.

As for the causes of this disorder, Dr Djazmati said: "Obstruction of the upper airway is the most common cause of this Sleep Apnoea. Sometimes it could be related to a problem in the brain like some neurological disorder."

However, he explained that there is no proven relation between Sleep Apnoea and chronic sinusitis or chronic throat and oral infection.

Dr Djazmati said treatment largely depends on diagnosis of the cause of the sleep disorder.

"More than 70-80 per cent of the patients respond well to a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or (CPAP) machine, which is connected to patients via a nasal mask while asleep, to keep the upper airway open."

He warned that if left untreated, up to 5 per cent of the patients might die suddenly.


Jazeera Airways eyes more Indian cities

KOCHI — April 30: After the successful launch of its Dubai-Kochi service, the Middle East's first private airline, Jazeera Airways, is planning to fly other southern Indian destinations, a top official said.

Addressing the media here in connection with the official launch of its Dubai-Kochi service, Jazeera Airways Chairman and CEO Marwan Boodai said the airline has plans to extend its service to Calicut, Trivandrum and Chennai.

Jazeera Airways commenced its flights from Kuwait to Indian cities last summer and increased traffic between Kuwait and Kochi by 38 per cent, Kuwait and Mumbai by 29 per cent, and Kuwait and Delhi by 19 per cent in 2006 over the previous year.

"Our increasing investment in India comes from our commitment to connect the Gulf to the Indian subcontinent and to work with authorities to bring more tourist and business travellers to Kochi," Boodai stated.

"India is very diverse and Kochi is breathtaking with its backwaters and unique culture, but that is not how people in the Gulf see Kochi. We are changing that by bridging the distance through our low fares the same way we stimulated traffic from Kuwait to Alexandria by 194 per cent, Aleppo by 207 per cent, and Damascus by 65 per cent," Boodai pointed out.


When asked about the baggage policy, Boodai said "We allow 20kg for each passenger. We believe in efficiency and we are providing the best service."

"We were able to stimulate traffic by introducing low fares for the first time on these routes and enabling our customers to be more in control of their booking experience through Internet booking, seat selection at the time of booking, the opportunity to change a flight online, and even upgrading to our premium cabin during the flight. All put together, we believe we have introduced a new way to travel to Kochi and that has attracted new travellers and non-resident Keralites (NRKs)," he pointed out.

He added: "Our performance in 2006 proved that our business model works. We offered a hassle-free quality product that enabled travellers to be more in control of their travel plans. We refused to adopt predominant industry practices such as overbooking, requiring reconfirmations, or only offering seat assignments at check-in.

"Instead, we told our travellers that their paid seat is a guaranteed seat and they can pick their seat at the time of book, not just at check-in."



Dubai police arrest two diamond robbers

DUBAI - April 30: Police have arrested two members of an armed gang who robbed a jewellery store in a mall, in a rare attack in the relatively safe Gulf emirate of Dubai, the official WAM news agency reported on Sunday.

WAM said Dubai police chief  Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim told reporters the two suspects were arrested in the affluent emirate, while an extradition request had been filed for a third member of the gang being held in an unnamed European country.

The diamonds stolen in the April 15 robbery, worth more than four million dollars, were returned to their owners, WAM said, without giving the nationality of the suspects.

The robbers used a car to ram through one of the main glass gates of Wafi City Mall, then drove down the wide aisles of the shopping centre to the jewellery store.

A second getaway car followed and helped the thieves escape after they ransacked the store within just two minutes.

The robbers fired several gunshots, shattering the shop windows, local media quoted witnesses as saying after what appeared to be the first attack of its kind in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates in recent years.



Dubai - Homeward bound

Dubai - April 30: Scores of Filipina housemaids who sought refuge at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai are being repatriated. In total 65 women are being sent back to their home country after fleeing abusive or non-paying families who they worked for. They are being sent back to prevent congestion at the Filipino Workers Resource Centre which caters for abused Filipinos.

Among the complaints from the women were physical and mental abuse, maltreatment and  unpaid salaries.  The workers were warned by the labour attaché Virginia Calvez at the consulate to not be persuaded to take inappropriate jobs by illegal recruiters and to not accept any employment paying less than $400 a month.

Calvez told the workers that they had a number of options open to them after returning to the Philippines including seeking local employment or  again working abroad. At least 18 were due to fly home last night with the others being repatriated over the coming days.

One 24-year-old maid told 7DAYS that she had sought refuge at the shelter in January after being raped by two teenage boys near where she worked. “I was washing my employer’s car at 5am on January 13 when they picked me up, took me to a vacant lot and took turns raping me inside the vehicle,” she said.



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