Father-son luxury car dealers suspected of bank fraud, allegedly pose as wedding guests to flee India
Wanted for allegedly duping banks of nearly ₹270 crore, the father-son duo who run the Zenica Group that deals in high-end luxury cars, had reportedly posed as wedding guests while trying to escape from India, police officials said.
The Delhi Police had registered a case against them on Wednesday and lookout notices were issued by security agencies at airports across the country. Police officials said the two were caught on Thursday at the departure terminal of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport.
Rash Pal Todd (57) and his son Mandhir Singh Todd (33) — both British citizens of Indian origin — were arrested from the airport around 1am on Thursday, 30 minutes before their flight was scheduled to depart for Birmingham in the UK, said additional commissioner of police (economic offences wing) Suvashis Choudhary.
The father-son duo who run the Zenica Group, which claims to be have established India’s first and largest Audi dealership, have showrooms across Delhi and Gurgaon. The company, according to their official website, employs more than 700 people. The group says it run at least five Audi and Porsche showrooms.
The duo was arrested based on a FIR filed by HDFC Bank officials with the Delhi Police’s economic offences wing on Wednesday. According to Choudhary, the two had been allegedly forging the company’s balance sheets to avail nearly ₹270 crore loans.
“The Todds have duped two more banks that we have identified. It is also likely that some officials of the HDFC Bank were hand-in-glove with the accused men. We will be investigating the role of the banks as well,” said Choudhary.
Sanjay Sharma, assistant vice-president of HDFC bank, on whose statement the FIR was registered, refused to comment on the case.
Police had anticipated that the Todds would try to leave the country when the FIR was being registered. “We sent our investigators and alerted airport security to prevent the Todds from leaving the country,” said Choudhary.
“When we confronted them, they said they were going to Birmingham to attend a relative’s wedding. They were carrying wedding dresses to make us believe their story,” he said.
When the police informed them they were being arrested, the father-son duo allegedly made a “desperate plea” to be allowed to leave.
“They told us we could arrest them on their return. They claimed their return tickets had been booked for September 6,” said Choudhary.
According to the officer, the father-son duo has allegedly confessed to the fraud. Choudhary said they have the duo in custody for three days and the next course of investigation would be tracing the digital footprints and checking the emails and documents of the Zenica Group to gather evidence of financial wrongdoing. Investigators are conducting raids at the showrooms, offices and homes of the father-son duo, Choudhary said.
“During questioning, the Todds have told us their companies have been availing loans from HDFC Bank since 2008 in the form of cash credit limit, trade advances, term loans and demo cars finance,” said Choudhary.
“They have admitted that during the inspection of the stock in June 2018, the company had furnished details of 200 cars inventory and had also submitted forged statement of another bank for seeking loan from HDFC, the bank from which the Zenica Group has been availing funds since 2005-06,” Choudhary said.
Hindustan Times mailed a detailed questionnaire to the Zenica Group seeking a response on the allegations. Till late Sunday night, there was no reply.
(An earlier version of this article had carried an incorrect photograph, identified in the caption as Rash Pal Todd. The wrong picture had been handed out by Delhi Police. The error is regretted.)