Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Investors lose crores in bid to get rich quick

NEW DELHI: At a time when companies are finding it hard to raise capital to fund their projects due to the global slowdown, thugs in India have successfully steered clear of the recessionary spiral. Beating global meltdown fears, they have cashed in on the ignorance of gullible investors, duping them of crores of rupees.

And with two such cases coming to light recently, an alarmed Delhi Police is planning to launch an advertising campaign urging people to be cautious against alleged fraudsters like Subhash Aggarwal and Ashok Jadeja. The latest case involves owners of BK Jewellers Rajesh and Chetan Mallik who are being alleged to have duped more than 300 invetsors of crores by assuring them handsome returns on investment.

Similarly, Aggarwal, who has been arrested, allegedly lured people into investing Rs 10,000, promising them Rs 1,000 interest every month. In the same manner, self-claimed godman Ashok Jadeja in Gujarat also won the trust of a denotified tribe over a period of time and assured its members of tripling their investment. In all the cases, the alleged fraudsters won the confidence of the people they targeted through word-of-mouth publicity and by initially living up to their promise. While Jadeja allegedly duped people of Rs 1700 crore across 11 states, Subhash, who started three years ago, allegedly made away with several thousand crores, operating from his Aman Vihar residence. Both of them targeted people from the low-income group.

Cautioning investors, joint commissioner of police (crime and railways) Amulya Patnaik said: "If by any means or advertisement, e-mails, any person is offering returns which look very attractive, we appeal to investors to consider such offers with caution and verify the details about the company. We will issue a list of dos and don'ts through a series of advertisements.''

Explaining Jadeja's modus operandi, a senior officer of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) said: "Jadeja targeted his own tribe. He invoked religious sentiments to milk his tribesmen who have traditionally been into the liquor trade. The tribe is very secretive and Jadeja knew that no one from outside the community will come to know of his designs.''

He was also aware that his tribesmen were financially illiterate and would never invest in mutual funds or any other financial instrument. "And that was the reason he had a free run for almost six months since January. His publicity was done through word of mouth and his tribesmen approached him from all corners of the country. His aunt, Manbai, advised Jadeja to inject a religious aspect into the scheme. She spread the word that Sikotar Mata had blessed Jadeja to help his community grow wealthy,'' said the officer.

Aggarwal, on the other hand, used the old trick of quick and fat returns. To win the trust of investors, he initially did keep his word. "Later he collected huge sums of money from investors and gave them cheques. But these cheques bounced and Aggarwal after two to three assurances disappeared.''

Investigators say that such complaints are very common. These people will always target a community or a region and would set up their base secretly. "Any person, coming out with unrealistically attractive schemes, knows his exit time and what it takes to create a base. In Jadeja's case, Ahmedabad Police has found that he started the money chain schemes in January. His scheme was more like multi-level marketing in which investors also become agents and spread the word,'' said another police officer.

Such scams are not new. "Delhi Police recently registered cases against Kanakdhara MLM Company for allegedly defrauding investors by drawing them into multi-level marketing. They promised a return of Rs 26 lakh on an investment of Rs 13,000,'' said an EOW officer.

Kanakdhara was started two years ago from west Delhi. Soon, the accused set up their offices in Mumbai and other parts of India and allegedly duped investors of Rs 10 crore. The Mumbai Police arrested the father-son duo of Bhupendra Singh Bakshi (54) and Gurkaran Singh Bakshi (24) in February this year. The police claimed the duo amassed wealth worth several crores, including several acres of land in Rajasthan. The Delhi Police also seized SUVs during the initial days.

Investigators cite many problems in probing such cases. "It becomes very difficult to trail the siphoned off money as there are no receipts. We have been taking help of forensic auditing in Kanakdhara case to determine the amount of losses,'' said a senior police officer. Another problem is that it's very difficult to link these men to any property.
Rahul Tripathi, TNN Jun 14, 2009, 12.56am IST

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