Dubai: An Indian businessman in the UAE has pledged $1 million (Dh3.6 million) to pay off the debts of expatriates who are jailed here, a newspaper reported.
Firoz Merchant, who operates a number of gold jewellery shops here, recently visited the Ajman Central Jail to help secure the release of the first batch of 132 prisoners whose combined borrowings worth $40,837 (Dh150,000) were settled, reported Gulf News on Wednesday.
Each prisoner was also provided an air ticket and money to cover the transportation expenses once they reach their home country.
The first batch of prisoners who have been freed were expatriates from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen, Oman and Ghana.
"These prisoners are victims of circumstances and are not real criminals. They are in jail because of debt. That is why I decided to pay off their debts and provide for air tickets so that they can go back to their countries and be reunited with their families," Merchant told the newspaper.
"Whatever support we provided them is according to the UAE laws, and in consultation with the official authorities. I do not follow direct requests from prisoners or their families. We take care of only those applications that are forwarded by the prison authorities. Each case is evaluated and recommended by the authorities," Merchant added.
A number of expatriates in the UAE have ended up behind bars for failure to repay their debts.
Merchant said those who have been assisted are expatriates who accumulated debts because of a job loss, business downturn or other reasons beyond their control.
Merchant's charity programme "Forgotten Society" is also in line with the UAE's Year of Giving initiative that encourages everyone to do whatever they can to help the less fortunate.
The businessman said he hopes that other players in the UAE's business community will also follow his example and help more expatriates get out of their "unfortunate financial circumstances."