Major jewellery retailer Pure Gold Jewellers has pledged US$1 million to help secure the release of debt-laden prisoners in the UAE.
Firoz Merchant, founder and chairman of Pure Gold, recently visited the Ajman Central Jail to secure the release of the first batch of 132 prisoners whose debts, worth AED 150,000 (about US$41,000) in total, had been paid off. Pure Gold Jewellers has a strong presence in the Middle East market, particularly, Dubai.
This is in accordance with the “Year of Giving 2017” initiative announced by UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The released prisoners were nationals of different countries such as Indonesia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen, Oman and Ghana. Up to AED 30,000 (about US$8,200) per person was allocated for debt clearance.
Merchant commented, “The Year of Giving is an amazing humanitarian initiative that implores everyone to do the best they can in whatever way they can, to help the less fortunate in our communities, so that we can move forward as a cohesive society. We have pledged US$1 million this year to secure the release of those who are imprisoned due to their inability to pay back debts that they accumulated because of job loss, business downturn or other reasons beyond their control. Since 2008, the ‘Forgotten Society’ initiative has aimed at helping insolvent prisoners, and we have secured the release of more than 4,500 such prisoners. We have also renewed our commitment this year with a larger budget.”
At Ajman Central Jail, Merchant met with prison authorities and the released prisoners, who were grateful to have received a second chance.
“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 united with their families,” Merchant said.
Merchant hopes that his “Forgotten Society” initiative to help prisoners will prompt others in the business community to come forward and offer help.