Anubhav Mittal is a social media hero, with a Facebook page filled with inspirational video-messages and countless ‘likes’. For his fellow-students at a private engineering college, he was Phunsukh Wangdu, a genius fictional character played by Aamir Khan’s in 3 Idiots. Mittal is also the suave, modern-day start-up entrepreneur who loves flashy cars and flashier parties – among guests to his birthday bash last year were pornstar-turned-Bollywood actor Sunny Leone and actor Amisha Patel.
Anubhav Mittal, 26, is now behind bars, accused of swindling Rs 3,700 crores from 7 lakh-odd people through one of the biggest internet scams in recent times.
Investigators retracing online footprints and shifting through sheaves of documents of his company, Ablaze Info solutions Private Limited, are stumbling upon story after story of a man who wanted to create his own social media platform where investors can do business.
HT has photographs of Mittal and his wife with Sunny Leone and Amisha Patel during his birthday party on November 29 in Delhi.
“During initial questioning, Mittal has revealed that he owns many cars and flats in many realty firms. But our investigation is underway to verify how many (more) flats or villas Mittal or his partners has in Noida, Greater Noida or any other city,” said an IT department official.
Mittal registered his company on September 7, 2010 in Delhi but did not his business. At the time of his arrest, he had 100 employees working for him at his office in Noida.
Investigators said it took Mittal more than five years to become what he is today -- a conman for officials and a Robinhood for his investors.
Back in 2010, Mittal, a resident of Ghaziabad, was just another BTech computer science student, about to graduate from his institute in Greater Noida, when he floated his company.
His first office was his hostel room in Knowledge Park area where he worked as a software developer. However, in the first three years, Mittal, had a mediocre performance as an entrepreneur with a total income of Rs 4 lakh.
But in 2015, he hit gold when he came up with the idea of ‘online barter system’ and a web address, socialtrade.biz.
To cover-up his ponzi scheme, Mittal brought the idea of ‘trade in likes’ to the investors.
His company claimed that they promoted social media penetration and internet popularity for small-time businesses and local ventures by ‘likes’ on Facebook. He lured investors with weekly returns and promise of bonus on bringing potential investors to the table.
“All we had to do was to invest a one-time amount and click ‘likes’ on Facebook, and we started receiving weekly payments. We also received bonus for bringing other investors,” said Manohar Yadav, a resident of nearby Noida village.
On social media, Mittal is a star among his followers and investors.
He has a Facebook fan page and his team has posted several ‘inspirational’ videos on YouTube. There are pictures of him throwing a party for his investors in Jaipur, offering many potential investors a glimpse of glamour and easy money.
Mittal knew the power of social media and he used it well, investigators said.
And not all are willing to buy police claims that he was a fraud.
On Friday morning, dozens of agitated investors assembled outside his office, saying they have come out in support of Mittal.
“My uncle had met Mittal last year and in next five minutes, the guy managed to woo him. Next day, my uncle was ready with the cash and three months later, he even convinced me to invest in the scheme,” said Gaurav Khurana, a native of Shamli, Uttar Pradesh.
Like Khurana, several other investors said that Mittal had a charming personality who never broke their trust.
“He had a touch of gold as whoever invested his money, got double in due time. He never gave any false promises and he has been framed wrongly,” said Abhishek Kumar, another investor.
(With inputs from Vaibhav Jha)