Published On : Tue, Apr 30th, 2019

Ponzi havoc: 57,904 victims, swindlers usurp Rs 368 cr in 4 years

RTI reply reveals cops arrested 138 fraudsters, recovered over Rs 148 crore

Nagpur: The greed to pocket easy money proved costly for thousands of investors who invested their hard-earned money hoping high returns. And the swindlers grabbed the opportunity with both hands and cheated the investors to the tune of crores by floating dubious financial schemes and ‘promising’ astronomical returns.

In a startling revelation, the investigating agencies have confirmed that a whopping 57,904 investors have been duped by fraudsters to the tune of Rs 3,68,37,89,989 in a period of four years and two monthsin Second Capital City of Nagpur. At the same time, cops have succeeded in recovering Rs 1,47,45,50,934 from the economic offenders that is barely 40 per cent of the total amount lost.

Responding a to a query posed by RTI activist Abhay Kolarkar, city police informed that a total of 75 economic offences were registered in the city from January 1, 2015 to February 28, 2019. Of them, 12 offences were related to the banks. The police have arrested 138 persons including scamsters and office-bearers of Wasankar Wealth Management Ltd, Arvind Cooperative Bank, Elina Employment Resources Firm, Shikshak Sahkari Bank, VV Investment Ltd, Venus FX Company, Saiprakash Development Ltd, Qnet Science, Dhokeshwar Multi-State Urban Cooperative Credit Society, Vermicopompst project, Samruddhi Jeevan Multi Purpose Co-Op society. Cops have also filed cases pertaining to Bitcoin scam and various bogus share market schemes. The sly promoters of such schemes always created third party interests over all the movable and immovable properties owned by them in order to dodge payment of money to the gullible investors.

Since past one decade, Pramod Agrawal of Mahadeo Land Developers, Jayant and Varsha Zambre of JS Financial Services, Sameer Joshi of Shree Surya, Raviraj group and recently Wasankar Wealth Management Group, the dubious tale is more or less same. Lure of high returns, flashy promotions, impressive tactics, the modus operandi was strikingly identical, yet every time they are able to dupe investors. In every case, hundreds of crores have been swallowed by the scamsters without leaving any money trail.

Despite unbelievable claims made by such high profile swindlers, people invested their sweat money into such schemes! The smooth operations by such financial devils rarely evoked suspicion as they were able to market their schemes ‘smartly’. They made it a point to honour the commitment, initially. The beneficiaries become brand ambassadors and often promote such schemes within his family and friends. This effective publicity and seemingly legitimate nature of the operations then create a mass hysteria and people repose faith in such investment’ Gurus’ hoping that he will deliver and multiply their money in record time. A basic check about valid permissions from the SEBI or RBI to collect money or invest in stock market, could have prevented most of the scams right in the initial phase. But lure of fast money, financial illiteracy and apathy by regulators also helped the scamsters in amassing huge money and once the bubble burst, the whole thing came crashing down.

Around 15,000investors lost more than an estimated Rs 4,000 crore between 2011-16 when such schemes were flourishing in every nook and corner. First, a scheme of lucrative returns was busted in the year 2011 when scam of Mahadeo Land Developers and Kalamna Society’s scam was unearthed and Director Pramod Agrawal was arrested. Maximum investors were daily wage workers. At a single shot, Agrawal duped almost four thousand investors to the tune of Rs 500 crores. Agrawal is now cooling heels behind bars and investors are waiting to get back their hard-earned money. Another big scam by Varsha and Jayant Zambre came to fore in the year 2012. Thecouple duped morethan 600 investors through their fraudulent JS Finance and services. In year 2013, Shreesurya scam surfaced, sending shockwaves among their middle-class and mostly Maharashtrian investors. Sameer and Pallavi Joshi have been named as the prime accused in the multi-crore scam. They have been charged with duping thousands of gullible investors to the tune of over Rs 1,000 crores.

According to a rough estimate, Wasankar and his accomplices had duped thousands of investors to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore. However, only 700 formal complaints have been received by the EoW as many investors are believed to have parked their unaccounted money in the schemes. As a result, the quantum of money lost reported to EoW is believed to be only a fraction of money actually parked by other investors, who have maintained a stoic silence.