SMB woes worsen

SMB Computers’ future is in doubt as problems continue to mount for the troubled distributor. Company premises have been closed in Dubai and placed under police guard, staff have been put on paid leave and vendors have dropped it as a partner.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  March 31, 2004

SMB Computers’ future is in doubt as problems continue to mount for the troubled distributor. Company premises in Dubai have been closed and placed under police guard, staff have been put on paid leave and vendors have dropped it as a partner. Vendors working with SMB claim it has not been actively trading for at least a week. Staff have been told to take a period of leave and await further information. One SMB Computers employee said: “The police came in about two weeks ago and there has been no trading since then. Management told us to hold on for some time — that is about it.” Visits to the company’s office and showroom in Dubai yesterday revealed both premises closed and a police guard present. Phone calls to SMB’s offices and warehouse in Dubai also went unanswered today. SMB has been in trouble since US President George Bush named the company in February as an alleged front for a smuggling ring dealing in nuclear technology. Following that announcement Samsung dropped it as a distribution partner, and other vendors, including palmOne, Fujitsu-Siemens and Epson, suspended trading with it. A spokesperson for Epson, said: “We ceased trading with SMB when the allegations first broke and made sure that Epson’s other distributors, Jumbo and Al Yousuf, could handle all our customers’ service needs and ensure product availability. SMB was trading for a while after the allegations, but I believe it was closed down at some point last week.” Other vendors associated with SMB are also unsure as to its current trading status. For instance, Stuart Maughan, general manager at palmOne Middle East, reveals that the handheld vendor is revising its agreement with the Dubai-based distributor due to current confusion. “It seems unlikely that we’ll be able to continue our distribution relationship. We asked for clarification on the situation from SMB and heard nothing back,” says Maughan. Fujitsu-Siemens has admitted that its finance team is assessing the situation now that the warehouses and offices have been sealed off. Neither SMB Computers’ PR agency nor its internal spokespeople were able to supply an official statement regarding the current situation at the company. So far the precise purpose of the Dubai authorities’ investigation into SMB has not been ascertained. Sources close to SMB suggest that legal moves are underway to transfer ownership from BSA Tahir, the man at the centre of the nuclear smuggling allegations, to either his brother, Seyed Ibrahim Bukhary, or a third party investor.

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