A high-profile Dubai estate agent which has been recruiting staff from the UK has gone bust.
British agents recruited this year, lured by the lifestyle and prospect of tax-free earnings, are among those who have lost their jobs, including some who started there only this month.
Some recent starters, who were promised excellent basics and commission, may never have been paid at all and find themselves stranded.
At least one British agent who went to Dubai sold a business in this country to take his family to the emirate for what he hoped was a new life.
Other UK agents due to start imminently and who may have already flown out to Dubai now find themselves without jobs.
S & K Estate Agents, better known as Smith & Ken, went on a major recruitment drive this year, trying to tempt experienced British agents to boost its levels of customer service.
One of the UK recruitment companies that supplied staff has been left unpaid for placing candidates.
Joshua Rayner, of Rayner Personnel, said: “I am out of pocket to the tune of two placements.
“As far as I was concerned, Smith & Ken was a well-established agent in Dubai, so this has come out of the blue.
“All I know is that when one of the people I placed went into work one morning, he found the doors shut, without any explanation.
“I feel extremely sorry for him and those other people who were sold a dream.”
One of his candidates started work there on July 1, and the second on July 7. A third was due to start next week.
A number of other British recruitment companies are also thought to have placed candidates.
Reportedly, a total of 80 people have lost their jobs in Smith & Ken’s offices in Dubai and Los Angeles with a liquidator appointed.
A statement on behalf of one of the shareholders said: “Unfortunately we have had no other choice but to file bankruptcy and hand over accounts and any remaining income to our liquidator.
“Simply put, the revenue being generated by the business drastically reduced over the first half of 2015, without enough income to cover operational costs.
“Additional support, advertising, incentives and training had been provided to existing and new agents to try and aid their growth and development to increase sales.”
The statement said Smith & Ken embarked on its major recruitment drive in the UK as “a last resort”.
Apparently poor service levels had led to complaints, which deterred repeat business and gave the company – which sources say appeared to have been run remotely – a poor reputation.
The Dubai market is competitive, but the number and value of property transactions has been falling.