CBI arrests 11 in Pearls Group Ponzi scheme case
A Ponzi scheme lures gullible investors by promising exorbitant returns; it has no regulatory approval and the CBI has said that a new scheme was floated to pay the dues of previous investors; over 5.5 crore investors across the country were duped this way
Jalandhar The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested 11 accused in a case against the Pearls Group, a Chandigarh-based private company, in which ₹60,000 crore were collected from 5.5 crore investors across the country, as part of various Ponzi schemes. Such schemes typically lure small investors into parting with their savings, on the promises of exorbitant return; these have no approval of any regulatory authority.
The charge-sheet in this case was filed in April 2016, after the agency arrested Pearls Group chairman and managing director Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and his accomplices in January of the same year. The case was registered against Bhangoo and others in February 2014, after an inquiry revealed prima facie evidence of the Pearls Group having raised investments of several thousand of crores of rupees by issuing bogus land allotment letters to induce investors.
On Thursday, the agency said those arrested included Pearls Group company officials and businessmen from Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar. It added that after the Punjab and Haryana high court ordered the company to wind up the scheme and refund investors, a similar fraudulent scheme was operated under the name of the other/second private company.
The arrested accused are Mohanlal Sehajpal; Kanwaljit Singh Toor (all from Pearls Group), Praveen Kumar Agarwal, Mannoj Kumar Jain, Akash Agarwal, Anil Kumar Khemka, Subhash Agarwal, Rajesh Agarwal (all businessmen) from Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar and other cities. The arrested accused were produced before special judge, Rouse Avenue Courts, Delhi. Eight of the two were remanded to two-day police custody; three, including Kanwaljit Singh Toor, Prem Seth and Anil Kumar, were sent to judicial custody.
‘Vicious circle of cheating’
The funds collected from new investors of this second company were used to repay the earlier investors of first private company to stave off criminal prosecution. The funds have been raised by the two companies through a vast network of lakhs of commission agents spread all over the country who were being paid hefty commissions.
“It was further alleged that the accused persons, including promoters and directors, and others illegally collected huge funds amounting to the tune of ₹45,000 crore (approx) from 5.5 crore investors (approx) under the garb of sale & purchase of agricultural land and the promise of high returns. These schemes were running illegally and both the companies were allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities including forgery in their day-to-day operations,” the agency said, adding that another $133 million Australian dollars were diverted to Australian companies.
Pearls Group illegally disposed
of properties worth ₹1,200 cr
Despite a Supreme Court ban in 2016, PACL India Limited or the Pearls Group, disposed of properties worth ₹1,200 crore bought with investors’ money till a case was registered against it in 2020. The Punjab Police have mentioned this is a separate case registered at Zira police station in July 2020. Har Satinder Singh Hayer, son-in-law of Bhangoo, and daughter Barinder Kaur are under arrest, in the case. Ferozepur additional and district sessions judge, Gurmohan Singh will hear Barinder’s bail plea on December 24.