The Saradha scamsters conned its investors with a promise to deliver about 88 lakh square feet of land — an area bigger than 152 football fields — upon the maturing of their policies, reveals a report by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).
With every investment scheme, there was an attached product promised at the end of the policy period. “On analysing the policies promising land at maturity, it was noted that a total of 87.97 lakh sq feet area was booked through the 2,09,830 polices (schemes were designed under land and apartments, land and tours, and only land)...there was no evidence of any construction of the scale reflected in the booking of apartments, flats or bungalows,” the report read.
Four Saradha group companies — Saradha Realty, Saradha Tours and Travels, Saradha Garden Resorts and Hotels, and Saradha Housing — positioned themselves as real estate and tour operator companies, while engaging in money market operations and mobilising funds from the public.
Mobilisation was done through 2,91,518 chain marketing agents operating through 305 branches. While the company operated across 14 states, 96% of the collections were from West Bengal, Assam and Odisha.
The SFIO investigation also found instances of multiple bookings of plots. “A total of 1,096 policies were booked by 386 customers, at an approximate average of three bookings per customer,” the report said.
Even the tour package bookings were full of discrepancies The Saradha Group went bust in April 2013 after four of its companies including the flagship Saradha Realty collected `2,459 crore from lakhs of mainly small investors. It did not return the maturity value to the investors and closed down its offices without paying salaries to its employees.