Iqama theft becomes burgeoning business

Iqama theft becomes  burgeoning business
Updated 11 June 2012

Iqama theft becomes burgeoning business

Iqama theft becomes  burgeoning business

Illegal aliens in Jeddah run markets to sell stolen residency permits (Iqamas). At these markets, people shop for Iqamas that were obtained illegally from legal expatriates. If an expat had their Iqama stolen and had not received a call from the thief (using the phone number on the Iqama) offering to return it for a certain sum of money, then these markets would be a place where the expat could look for a replacement.
Sometimes, if a victim cannot be reached by phone, the thief will search for them near the location where the Iqama was stolen, attempting to make a trade, exchanging papers for money. Sometimes an accomplice will help the thief in locating the victims. Sadeq, a Sudanese expatriate who lost his residency permit on the bus in the Balad area, said he was contacted a few hours after the incident. “The man offered to return the Iqama in exchange for SR1,200. If I failed to pay, he would sell it.”
Sadeq refused. “I knew he was bargaining. He called the next day and reduced the amount to SR900 but I refused again. Eventually we agreed on SR500 to be paid in a market in the middle of Bab Makkah area, from which it is hard to get out if you don’t know the area well.”
Organized groups that are specialized in pickpocketing Iqamas make use of the many expatriates in Jeddah traveling on buses or walking in the streets. After stealing the Iqamas, the thieves call and negotiate with the victims. If the victims don’t pay, the permits are sold to illegal aliens, said Sadeq.
According to Jaweed Muhammad from Pakistan, the amounts thieves ask for to return a stolen Iqama differ according to nationality. If the Iqama is of an Arab national, the thieves might ask for SR1,000 to SR1,500. For other nationalities, the amount could be SR800 to SR900, he added.
Abdulshakoor said they are fast and you can get your stolen papers back immediately after you get the call and pay. “They are divided into three groups: those who carry out the theft and bring the item to the market; those receiving the victims who are looking for their papers and check if their lost item is in the market; and thirdly those who manage the sale inside the market,” he said.
Police in Jeddah have arrested many illegal aliens who were part of Iqama-stealing gangs. Some gangs were specialized in snatching expatriates’ mobiles, purses and wallets, then negotiating their return at a price. One of the victims notified the police about such a call. The police asked him to pretend to agree and then arrested the thieves in a sting operation.