Pearls Group CMD Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and three others, arrested in connection with alleged swindling of Rs 45,000 crore from over five crore investors, were today remanded to 10-day CBI custody by a Delhi court.
Metropolitan Magistrate Harvinder Singh sent Bhangoo and three top executives of Pearls Group of companies in CBI’s custody till January 19 after the agency said their custodial interrogation was required to find out the money trail and unearth the entire conspiracy.
Apart from Bhangoo, CMD of Pearls Golden Forest Ltd (PGF) and ex-Chairman of Pearls Australasia Pty Limited, the other three arrested are Sukhdev Singh, MD and Promoter-Director of Pearls Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL), Gurmeet Singh, Executive Director (Finance) and Subrata Bhattacharya, ED in the PGF/PACL.
They were arrested under charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating of the IPC. During the hearing, CBI argued that huge money was bungled by the accused who had duped so many investors by luring them with attractive land deals. The police’s plea for their custody was opposed by the counsel representing the accused persons.
Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, who appeared for Bhangoo, argued that a preliminary enquiry was registered in the matter in 2013 and an FIR was lodged by CBI in 2014. He said the investigation in the case has been going on for the past two years and there was nothing left for questioning now.
The counsel claimed that Bhangoo and the three others were called to the CBI office yesterday for questioning in the morning and arrested thereafter. They were produced before the court this afternoon, after more than 24 hours in violation of the law, he alleged. The arrest came after two years of CBI probe ordered by the Apex Court in the country’s largest reported ponzi scam. During the probe in the last two years, CBI had found 1300 bank accounts of the suspect company, their directors, and associated firms.
CBI had said it had frozen the group’s assets, mostly fixed deposit receipts, to the tune of Rs 280 crore and an additional Rs 108 crore was deposited with Delhi High Court. The agency said it has managed to seize 20,000 property documents believed to be of Rs 5,000 crore of purchase value. It is estimated by CBI that these properties could be about Rs 1.85 lakh crore, going by the present market rates.
In its FIR, CBI has claimed that PACL and PGF were running the schemes illegally and both the companies were allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities including forgery in their day-to-day operations. “Investigation also revealed that the accused persons fraudulently diverted the alleged funds collected under the aegis of Jaipur-based private company for purported investment in Australian companies. So far 132.99 mn AUD (approx) found to have been diverted to Australian companies,” CBI had said.
CBI further alleged that the funds were raised by the two companies through a vast network of lakhs of commission agents spread across the country who were paid hefty commissions to lure investors.