The fast-unto-death by three agents of the Pearls Group in front of its office here entered its fourth day on Saturday. The agents of the group alleged that the investors in the district got ‘robbed of’ to the tune of Rs 150 crore by Pearls Group company, PACL India Ltd (PACL) in Barnala.
Of the three agents on fast, Rajinder Singh and Karamjit Singh, felt a little unconscious on Friday and the police forcibly lifted them and got them admitted to the civil hospital here. After they were discharged from the hospital on Saturday, they again returned to the protest site and resumed their fast.
The agents said that non-payment of amounts by the PACL has not only jeopardised their livelihood and deprived them of commission amounts on past business, but they are also facing the ire of investors, who are demanding their money back.
Most of the agents, prior to their joining as field associates with Pearls, originally became investors. The modus operandi of the company was simple and straight. Whosoever became an investor, the company offered him to become a part of the multi-level marketing pyramid scheme (MLM) to earn more by offering commission as high as 35% of the collected amount.
Besides cash incentives, the company offered scooters, bikes and cars as CMD gifts. Some agents used to put Pearls sticker on their cars and allured others to get a similar car as an incentive by working for PACL.
Harvinder Singh, a protesting agent, said, “More than one lakh investors have invested nearly Rs 150 crore through 20,000 agents in Barnala district. PACL has stopped paying maturity payments of about Rs 3 crore becoming due every month, to investors since November 2013.”
No data on agents, investors
The PACL branch office here has neither any data regarding the number of agents and investors nor they know about the quantum of investments routed through their office as the branch office functioned as a ‘receiving station’ only.
Harvinder added, “The situation may aggravate in the days to come when the farmers, who constitute bulk of investors, become free from paddy season. More investors will be in panic as maturity dates of investments are approaching every other day.”
Jagmohan Singh, another agent said, “Under my chain in the MLM, I have got about Rs 25 crore invested. Even my own commission of about Rs 2.75 lakh has been due since March 2013. Regulatory authorities are doing nothing to save us from the clutches of the PACL.”
Agents have lodged complaints with the police besides submitting memoranda to the deputy commissioner. Agents said a memorandum given to additional deputy commissioner Zora Singh Thind two-and-a-half months ago failed to move the administration.
Gurbachan Singh, another agent, said, “As the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has debarred PACL from collecting any money from investors under collective income schemes, promoters of PACL have floated another company with the name Mesmeric Merchandising Pvt Ltd. Development manager (north) of PACL Pardeep Kalia has been inaugurating offices of Mesmeric.”
Another agent Darshan Singh said PACL had been accepting business by dating it August 21 to bypass the prohibitory order dated August 22, 2014 passed by the SEBI.
Launch of new companies
Karamjit Singh, another agent said, “Pearls group has also launched two more companies – Lotus Agricultural Society Ltd and Kisan Agrotech Society Ltd – and lured people to join as shareholders and depositors.”
Sukhwinder Singh, another agent, said, “Pearls sold silver, gold and platinum cards of Rs 5,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 denominations respectively. The cards issued by WEE Membership Services offered monthly discount to holders on the purchase of grocery items. Cardholders neither got grocery items on discount nor the company ever agreed to refund the amount.”
PACL accountant Shah Alam said, “Even we are not getting salaries, but we have not lost faith.
Wait and watch is the only solution left to us and investors. I can only say that panic is not the solution and people should not lose hope.”
PACL Branch Manager Bikramjit Sharma said, “I resigned from PACL on Friday. So I am not in a position to say anything.”
What investors say
An investor Asa Ram, who retired from the army in 2003, said, “I had put my lifetime savings in this company in different schemes. I was assured that Rs 2 lakh invested becomes Rs 10 lakh in 12 years. But the system has collapsed completely.”
Another investor Sukhdev Singh said, “I had invested after selling a small piece of land which I owned, for betterment, studies and marriages of my children. Now my relatives, who had insisted for investing in PACL, do not respond to my telephone calls.”
Deputy commissioner GS Sidhu said, “‘Aa bael mujhe maar’ (Come on bull! kill me). It was people’s greed that led to this fiasco. The administration is discharging its responsibilities in a befitting manner. People should be doubly sure of legalities before investing. Anyhow, we have written to the senior superintendent of police (SSP) to probe the matter thoroughly.”