Probing a Ponzi scheme worth Rs 45,000 crore referred to as the Pearl scam for the last two years, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has identified properties worth Rs 5,000 crore across the country and scrutinising investments in Australia amassed by Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, the arrested owner of Pearl group. Investigators say they are scanning over 20,000 documents related to properties in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Maharashtra. Sources said it is estimated that the properties could be worth Rs 1.85 lakh crore in terms of current market rates.
Sources say close to 150 Australian dollars amounting to over Rs 650 crore were stashed away to Australian companies linked to Bhangoo.
Bhangoo is accused of running a Ponzi scheme giving land guarantee to lure investors who paid a certain amount of money. It is estimated that over 5 crore investors were conned in the pyramid scheme.
Seeking a 10-day custody from a Delhi court on Saturday, CBI will interrogate Bhangoo and other executives of Pearl Group who were arrested to unravel the money trail and the entire conspiracy where government officials in Punjab could have also been part of the scam. Sources said a lot of illicit wealth was swindled to Australia where Bhangoo had extended his empire that needs to be investigated. Sources say Bhangoo\'s business in Australia appeared to be a respectable one, his influence was such that Australian cricketer Bret Lee became a brand ambassador for the Pearl Group. The group has also been a co-sponsor for IPL team Kings XI Punjab.
Bhangoo\'s counsel Vijay Agarwal questioned the arrests and CBI\'s motive. \"The FIR is two years old. By now the investigation should have been over. What is the need for arresting anybody subsequent to the investigation? The arrests should not have taken place,\" he said.
Investors were also lured by promising an interest of 12.5 percent on the deposits besides free accidental insurance and income tax free maturity. The investors were also told that the cost of land being purchased by them will multiply fast.
Sources said government officials in Punjab are also under scrutiny for helping Bhangoo run the scam. \"The Ponzi scheme gave land guarantee to investors and it suspected to establish that the land offered really existed government officials were roped in. The prized agricultural land on offer did not exist and bogus land allotment letters were issued to lure investors,\" said an official.
CBI has frozen 1,300 bank accounts valuing Rs 280 crore and an additional Rs 108 crore was deposited in Delhi High Court.
The CBI registered a case in February 2014, against Bhangoo, his associates and two com-Court sends Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, other accused to 10-day CBI custody By Abhishek Bhalla in New Delhi panies Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited (PACL) and Pearl\'s Golden Forest Limited (PGFL) that were used to run the Ponzi scheme. The case was registered under sections of cheating (420) and criminal conspiracy (120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code. In its FIR, CBI claimed that PACL and PGF were running the schemes illegally and both the companies were allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities including forgery in their day-to-day operations. Investigation also revealed that the accused persons fraudulently diverted the alleged funds collected under the aegis of Jaipurbased private company for purported investment in Australian companies.
Over the last two years, the agency launched a countrywide investigation carrying out searches in multiple cities raiding Pearl Group\'s offices in when his offices in Chandigarh, Punjab, Rajasthan and New Delhi. Most of the investors who have been cheated are from states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Haryana.
MUMBAI: The EOW, which lodged an FIR against five persons, including three from a family in a Rs 90-crore investment fraud case, has attached 1,100 acres of land and other properties collectively valued at Rs 70 crore.
The properties include a resort in Kasara, a farmhouse in Karjat and an office in Mumbai. The attachment was done while police are probing the Temple Rose Real Estate Pvt Ltd\'s (TRREPL) investment cheating case.
The EOW found that an orthopaedic surgeon from the city had invested Rs 5 crore in the Ponzi scheme. There are around 6,000 investors who invested in schemes floated by TRREPL. The EOW has filed an FIR against five from Temple Rose, whose offices are located in Dadar (east) and Pune.
Those named in the FIR include Devidas Sajnani, promoter and director of TRREPL, his wife Vanita and daughter Deepa and two others, Keshav Iddya and Marx Thorat. \"We\'ve found Rs 300 crore was invested... The value of attachment is around Rs 70 crore,\" said an officer.