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Savings gone,loans unpaid,panic looms large on victims

Ramesh Tiwari is a retired Navy officer. Bodhlal Yadav is a serving defense personnel and Amit Kumar Choudhury is a retired Air Force officer.

Written by Mohit Sharma | New Delhi |
June 18, 2009 1:53:10 am

Ramesh Tiwari is a retired Navy officer. Bodhlal Yadav is a serving defense personnel and Amit Kumar Choudhury is a retired Air Force officer.

All three invested their life’s savings in Money Mantra and Big Leap — the two companies owned by alleged conman Naveen Kumar Sharma. They even took loans to invest.

Observing irregularities in payments in December 2008,they were initially disappointed and by January — angry. In April,as the accused absconded along with his 10-odd staff members,their anger turned to fear,for the banks were demanding payments.

These are not isolated cases. Seventy per cent of Sharma’s 3,000 victims are serving or retired defence personnel.

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The conman had roped in a few retired defence personnel — Rajpal Singh (Army),Dharmender Singh (Navy) and a serving Navy officer,Rajender — who would target defence personnel in Delhi Cantonment and Naraina.

“A group of us went to the company offices in Gurgaon and Dwarka,” said Tiwari. “We saw satisfied customers leaving with valid cheques. After about seven months of closely monitoring the company,I invested my savings of Rs 9 lakh and another Rs 3 lakh in bank loans.”

Once a victim invested,Sharma would call him to his office and hand him a cheque worth the principal amount — signed,but undated. Thereafter,the victim would get 10 per cent of the principal every month,in effect doubling the amount at the end of 10 months.

Retired IAF officer Choudhury said: “My biggest mistake was to reinvest the amounts I received from him. I never encashed my principal and invested the monthly 10 per cent back in the company.”

The payments were on time till November.

“In December,he called a meeting in his Dwarka office. He said he had suffered some losses and would make the payments in March,” said Bodhlal Yadav. “In March,he called another meeting in his Gurgaon office and that time,he had two armed bodyguards. He said he would make the payments by May. On April 17,he fled.” In fact,after February,Sharma’s bodyguards prevented his victims from meeting him.

The Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police has registered a case against Sharma and his accomplices.

This is the fourth cheating case to come to light recently — the first being the Ashok Jadeja case.

Another case involved the well-known jewellery chain,BK Jewellers. Its victims allege that the accused employed bouncers to keep the victims away.

“The bouncers misbehaved with me once. Some of the investors even got beaten up,” said Sandeep Kumar,a resident of Tilak Nagar.

To add to their woes,the police did not register their complaints,even though the police station is a stone’s throw from BK Jewellers offices. “In fact,some Delhi Police officers themselves had invested in the scheme,but they got their money back as they were aware of everything that was going on,” Sandeep said. He had urged about 15 people of his locality to invest and all of them are now demanding their money from him.

Explaining the scheme,another victim,Satnam Singh,said: “An investment of Rs 20,220 was to multiply to a huge amount at the end of five months. After a lot of people invested,the amount was revised.”

They had promised to pay every 15 days. But after the first two or three installments,the cheques started bouncing. The company has over one lakh members,Singh said.

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