Sydney Lemos lived life on the fast lane.
He owned a Ferrari, BMW X6 and a Maserati. He lived in a villa at one Dubai's tony residential locations Al Barsha and, in a short span, built assets worth US$15 million in his name.
The 37 year old from Mapusa, Goa owed his success, which saw him rub shoulders with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Neymar, Ronaldinho and other celebrities, to a fantastic promise. He reeled in clients by convincing them that his Dubai-based forex company Exential had managed to come up with a software that could ensure 120% returns.
Investors fell for his claim in droves.
The minimum investment had to be $25000. The early investors were credited the too-good-to-be-true returns that were promised on this sum between the 20th and 25th of every month, according to a former Exential employee.
But around late 2015, the first complainants surfaced. The promised returns were not reaching them.
2015 was the year that FC Prime Markets had signed a multi-crore sponsorship deal with Indian Super League (ISL) side FC Goa. It bought Lemos time with Tendulkar, footballing legend Zico, and other celebrities like Abhishek Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor.
Even those I-was-there-moments, however, failed to net him enough people he needed to keep his scheme - a Ponzi - running.
By March 2016, it had officially collapsed. The Dubai Economic Department sealed Exential's office in Dubai's Media City four months later in July 2016. Lemos had reportedly defrauded 7000 clients of $200 million (Rs 1200-plus crore) by this time.
The complainants decided to fight him despite the prohibitive cost - over $ 4000 - needed to file a civil case in Dubai. Lemos was arrested in December 2016, released on bail and re-arrested in January 17.
Report carried by XPRESS, a sister publication of Gulf News
Over a year later, last Sunday - April 8 - he became one of three people to be sentenced to 517 years in jail. The judgement was based on a total of 515 complaints against him and his firm. Dr Mohammad Hanafi, presiding judge of the special bench of the Dubai Misdemeanours Court hearing the case, handed Lemos and his employee Ryan D’Souza one year in jail for each of the 513 of these complaints and two years in jail for two of the complaints. Sydney's wife Valany was sentenced in absentia to the same jail term.
The trio join 45 other people in the world who have been handed down sentences of over 500 years in jail. The longest recorded jail sentence was handed to Chamoy Thipyaso, a Thai, who was sentenced to 141078 years in jail on July 27, 1989 for scamming people through her chit fund of between $200-300 million.
Valany, who fled to Goa, is now waging an almost lone battle to save her husband, sending out frantic tweets to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj:
#sushmaswaraj maam help me fight the injustice which has happened to myself ryan dsouza and sydney lemos. Hear my voice. O beg you. Wrong has happened to us. There is no help but only you. 513 years of imprisonment is not justice. It will be the victory of evil. Help me— Valany Lemos (@ValanyLemos) April 13, 2018
As for Ryan, many believe the 25 year old is innocent and has been unfairly jailed. A free Ryan movement is gathering steam on Facebook and in Goa too.