Pearls Group CMD, 3 others remanded in judicial custody

  • PTI, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 23, 2016 20:10 IST

Arrested on the charges of duping more than 5 crore investors of Rs 45,000 crore, Pearls Group chairman and managing director (CMD) Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and three others were on Saturday sent to 14-day judicial custody by a Delhi court.

Chief metropolitan magistrate Sugandha Aggarwal remanded the accused in judicial custody till February 6 after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said it didn’t want their further custodial interrogation. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Police also moved court seeking Bhangoo’s custody in another case and that hearing is now on Monday (January 25). Apart from Pearls Golden Forest (PGF) CMD and former Pearls Australasia chairman Bhangoo, the CBI had arrested Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited (PACL) MD and promoter-director Sukhdev Singh; executive director (finance) Gurmeet Singh; and PGF/PACL executive director Subrata Bhattacharya on January 8, after two years of Supreme-Court-ordered investigation into the country’s largest-reported Ponzi scheme.

During the hearing, Bhangoo’s counsels Manish Jain and Vijay Aggarwal submitted that since he had a kidney transplant recently, he’d require regular medical examination in jail. The court directed the jail authorities to take care of that.

The CBI has claimed to have found 1,300 bank accounts of the company, its directors, and associated firms, so far, and looked into those. It has said that Pearls Group lured investors with attractive land deals. Court has frozen the group’s assets, mostly fixed deposit receipts to the tune of Rs 280 crore. The group had to deposit additional `108 crore with the Delhi high court.

The CBI has said it has managed to seize 20,000 property documents of Rs 5,000 crore purchase value, which going by the current market rate, could be about Rs 1.85 lakh crore. Its first-information report (FIR) suggest that the PACL and the PGF ran illegal investment schemes, besides engaging in fraudulent activities such as forgery.

Scam’s journey

1998: Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) first writes to Pearls Agrotech about its schemes but company challenges its jurisdiction

1999: Delhi high court directs CBI to appoint auditors to check if the PACL deals are genuine

2000: Auditors report discrepancies, in November, Delhi high court appoints K Swamidurai to verify genuineness of transactions

2002: SEBI passes order saying PACL schemes fall under CIS (collective investment schemes)

2003: Rajasthan high court holds that PACL schemes are not CIS

2013: Supreme Court sets aside Rajasthan high court order, orders inquiry by SEBI, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation)

2014: SEBI asks firm to refund `46,000 core to investors, CBI lodges case

2015: Supreme Court set up committee to liquidate company’s assets, cash deposits to refund investors; accused summoned in December

Jan 8, 2016: Accused held after two years of CBI probe.

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