How kingpin of investment fraud landed in Kerala police net

By, Thiruvananthapuram
Jan 15, 2023 11:39 PM IST

From setting up a political party to contesting Parliamentary elections to rubbing shoulders with high and mighty, Praveen did it all before facing the consequences of his actions.

A mason’s son, he started from humble beginnings, dabbled into multiple fields including, event management, politics and even movies before grabbing the headlines for becoming a master swindler.

K P Praveen (HT)
K P Praveen (HT)

Kerala-based college dropout K P Praveen alias Dr Praveen Rana left a trail of destruction by cheating and deceiving hundreds of gullible investers — his targets comprised of both rich businessmen and middle class shop keepers — before his crimes caught up with him and he landed in the police net.

From setting up a political party to contesting Parliamentary elections to rubbing shoulders with high and mighty, Praveen did it all before facing the consequences of his actions.

Praveen who is suspected to have swindled more than 150 crore has multiple complaints registered against him across the state, police said.

Praveen moved around in swanky cars, was always circled by body guards, spent lakhs of rupees for his image building and even invested money in film making business, said police. Praveen’s case is the latest in a series of ponzi busting cases in the country’s most literate state.

On the run, his crimes finally caught up with him as he was hounded out from a quarry— his hideout — in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Praveen was arrested on Wednesday. “The accused has swindled more than 150 crores and at least 36 complaints have been filed against him in different parts of the state,” a police official familiar with the developments said.

Interestingly, Praveen’s story has many resemblances with Kochi-based controversial antique collector Monson Mavunkal who took many biggies for a ride and now cools his heels in jail. Praveen is the fourth such case where a big chit-fund-cum financial firm has been busted in Thrissur in a year.

And the police are expect more such discoveries. Officials in the know of the matter suspect that several businessmen and film personalities who invested heavily in Rana’s business are keeping a stiff upper lip fearing bad publicity.

Praveen had emptied all his accounts before fleeing from Thrissur. Later, police found around 80 crore were withdrawn from his various accounts in one year.

It is yet another example how easily people fall prey to promises of high returns and stakes in spurious firms, according to the experts.

“There is no end to greed and people want quick returns so they land up in the hands of such crooks”, said K Jose, a tax consultant in Thrissur.

“Praveen branded himself as a billionaire” and often said “he was taken birth to end miseries of people and called himself a social scientist,” said one of his investers, seeking anonymity.

“When I went to meet him in 2018, he was surrounded by a group of foreign dancers... later he took me to a dance bar which he claimed was the recent addition to his chain of hotels and bars. I invested 75 lakh immediately (in his business),” said another complainant who did not want to be named.

He said in two years Praveen ensured healthy returns which prompted him to invest 50 lakh more in 2020. “But eventually the returns dried up,” the complainant added. “I invested 1.25 crore and got only 30 lakh in return,” the complainant said.

An eminent doctor in Kochi who invested 1 crore in Praveen’s business refused to talk. Not only influential people, the accused defrauded several retired people, small-time shop keepers and poor NRIs by making them invest in his firm, said police.

From a mason’s son to fraudster

Kaipully Pushkaran Praveen hailed from a lower middle class family in Thrissur. His father was a mason but later started taking up small contracts to provide good education to his son.

Rana was enrolled in an engineering college but dropped out later and started managing small event management functions and a marriage bureau. In 2010, he organised a big show in Thrissur and invited several film personalities. He gifted youth icon award to noted film star Prithviraj Sukumaran. Though there were many complaints after the show, police said, this event really “showcased K P Praveen”.

A year later, police said, he opened his first business firm named Kaipully Business Group in an upmarket area in Thrissur and started employing executives.According to the police,he started collecting money for which initially good returns were given and his firm earned confidence in no time.

In 2015 he re-branded his firm as “Safe and Strong”. Simultaneously, his modest Swift car gave way to Mercedes with his fleet of luxury cars increasing. K P Praveen turned Praveen Rana and later affixed a “Dr” before his name. And his single storey house turned into a bungalow, said police.

One of the officials quoted above said, Praveen also employed retired police officials who gave him enough tips and helped him in dealing with the initial complaints.

“We will inquire about complaints regarding involvement of retired and serving officials,” said Thrissur police commissioner Ankit Ashokan.

Rana started a production firm by the name Kaippully Cinemas under which he produced three movies. In two moves, he played the hero but both the films flopped. Soon, he started expanding his business and acquired a couple of dance bars in Goa when market was dull due to pandemic wave.

“He employed public relations and image building firms and made attractive videos detailing about his investments and high connections. He has an uncanny knack to convince people,” said one of his earlier employees, seeking anonymity. Police have arrested six of his employees so far.

In 2018, he floated a political party called Royal India People’s Party and contested 2019 Parliament election from two seats Thrissur and Wayanad. In Thrissur, he got 1,105 votes and Wayanad 1,102. Later the Election Commission suspended his party’s recognition for failing to files details of expenses. His election affidavit showed he only owned properties worth 80 lakh.

In 2022 he produced another film titled “Choran,” that was also a flop. In fact, one of his flopped movies was directed by a serving police officer.

“In business, ups and downs are normal. I have not cheated people. I only have some dues and I will clear those, once I am out,” said Rana when he was produced in a court in Thrissur on Thursday.

As enforcement agencies are struggling with mounting complaints against the “Safe and Strong,” proprietors of another financial firm in Thrissur “Panachery Fincorp” are absconding leaving investors high and dry. Police say the latest swindling will also cross 200 crore.

Rana has been remanded to judicial custody till January 27. He has been booked under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (cheating) and provisions of the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Act, 2019. In Kannur (north Kerala) five fresh cases were registered against him on Friday after duped investors complained.

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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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