A team from the Thane police will take Sagar ‘Shaggy’ Thakkar, the mastermind of the Rs1,900-crore Thane call centre scam, to his native place in Ahmedabad on Wednesday to identify and asses his investments, allegedly made from the ill-gotten money.
He had surrendered himself to the police and was arrested from the Mumbai airport on Friday.
The scam, which operated since 2013 through at least half a dozen call centres in Thane, targeted at least 15,000 US-based tax payers, who were allegedly conned by Indian tele-callers.
The scam came to light last year when police raided call centres at Mira Road in Thane district on the night of October 4-5. Subsequently, police teams raided and shut down five call centres in Ahmedabad which were a part of the racket.
More than 70 people, mostly directors and key persons linked to these call centres, were arrested and 700 employees were detained.
Thane commissioner Param Bir Singh told HT on Tuesday that the police had obtained leads about Thakkar’s investments in properties and some other businesses. “We will check those addresses and also the bank accounts as revealed by him,” Singh said, adding that the police would seek court’s intervention to attach those assets.
The police will check Thakkar’s three bank accounts during their visit to Gujarat.
They will also check hawala channels who helped him en-cash US iTune cards, through his contacts in China for a cut. He, sources said, earned merely 15-20% of the scam money, while the rest went to his partners and employees. He is believed to have made Rs15-20 crore over the last two-three years, sources added.
Of demonetisation demons and distress sale
The Thane police have something to cheer about the Narendra Modi government’s November 8 demonetisation move.
A senior Thane crime branch officer told HT that the notes ban had hit Thakkar in two ways. Firstly, the curb on black money had resulted in plummeting property prices, while on the other hand, the transactions in white (via cheques or money transfer) had left the trail of the deals.
After getting to know about raids at his call centres in Mira Road, Thakkar left for Dubai the next day. Before leaving, he allegedly asked his parents to sell of his sprawling bungalow at Gokuldham society in the plush New Renip area of Ahmedabad. He also dispatched his two expensive cars — an Audi R8 and a BMW SUV— to his friends in Haryana and Ahmedabad, respectively.
It was only in December last year that his parents and one of his friends could find buyers for the bungalow and the SUV. With a slump in realty prices and cash cruch owing to the notes ban, the assets fetched almost 50% less than what he had expected. Moreover, all trascations of the sale were done in white, which will help the police in establishing the money trail and pinpoint if Thakkar recieved any finacial support during his self-imposed exile.
“Due to demonetisation, the 5,000 sq ft bungalow, which could have easily bagged anything between Rs5 crore and Rs6 crore, had to be sold off for Rs2.5 crore. The Audi R8 was seized while the BMW was sold by his friend at an abysmally low price,” the officer, who is privy to Thakkar’s interrogation, said.
The police have learnt that both the transactions were made via cheques. “Even if attempts were made to wire transfer the money, the trail can be established from the accounts,” the officer said, adding that three of Thakkar’s bank accounts in Ahmedabad had been identified.