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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014

Pearls Group dir had brush with CBI earlier too

Abhishek Sharan and Hillary Victor, Hindustan Times  New Delhi/Chandigarh, February 28, 2014
First Published: 22:52 IST(28/2/2014) | Last Updated: 10:58 IST(2/3/2014)

For Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, a dairy owner-turned-billionaire real-estate developer in Punjab, who is facing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe along with seven others, for allegedly duping 5 crore gullible investors of Rs. 45,000 crore, it is not the first time that he has come into the agency's crosshairs.

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The CBI had in September 2011 filed a chargesheet against him, along with five other accused, including a former president of Medical Council of India Ketan Desai, for allegedly orchestrating an irregular grant of recognition to his Patiala-based medical college through the payment of a Rs. 2-crore bribe, said an agency source.

Over two years later, the CBI on Saturday named Bhangoo, the director of Pearls Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL), and seven other directors, including group firm Pearls Golden Forest Ltd (PGF) director Sukhdev Singh, in its first information report (FIR), for allegedly duping 5 crore investors of their hard-earned investments worth Rs. 45,000 crore with bogus land-allotment letters.

The agency, which is recording statements of several victims of the two accused firms (PGF and PACL), has so far frozen 1,000 accounts across 35 banks located in the country that belonged to them and the eight directors, including Bhangoo. A few firm officials have already been questioned.

"We will question the directors, including Bhangoo, soon. We may arrest them if they do not cooperate with our probe," a senior CBI official told HT. According to the official, Bhangoo and the other directors have allegedly invested in immovable assets in the country and abroad, including hotels whose records are getting scrutinised to find their suspected link with siphoned-off investments.

"The two fraud firms had a simple modus operandi   they would take investment from a gullible investor by giving them a bogus land allotment letter. They would tell the investor that five years later, they could take back the land by buying it at a rate much higher than the actual one," said the official.

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