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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Two-third victims of financial crimes yet to claim their money: EOW ‘refund unit’

Of the total 33,293 investors who lost money under various financial crimes since the unit was set up, the EOW has been able to refund over 11,000 while nearly over 22,000 did not turn up to collect the money.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Published: January 21, 2020 2:27:17 am
economic offences wing refund unit, eow, financial crimes, mumbai news, maharashtra news, indian express news Police suspect that while some of them may have died, proper records of others have not been maintained, making it difficult for them to be tracked down, especially in cases dating back decades. (Representatiolal Image)

Nearly three years after it was set up, the ‘refund unit’ of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) is faced with a peculiar problem: close to two-thirds of the victims of financial crimes, whose money the EOW wants to return, have not turned up.

Of the total 33,293 investors who lost money under various financial crimes since the unit was set up, the EOW has been able to refund over 11,000 while nearly over 22,000 did not turn up to collect the money.

Police suspect that while some of them may have died, proper records of others have not been maintained, making it difficult for them to be tracked down, especially in cases dating back decades.

A senior officer said ever since the unit was set up, following court orders on May 31, 2017, they had returned Rs 24 crore in connection to 10 cases, where the court had ordered the unit to do so.

“Nearly Rs 12.41 crore, however, is yet to be distributed. We make several attempts like publishing advertisements in newspapers to asking victims to inform others about the refund. Several have their own WhatsApp groups,” the officer said.

The officer added, “When the unit started, we got around 500 to 1,000 victims of financial crimes, who would approach us daily. However, now there are around eight to 10 people who come to the unit to get a refund.”

The officer also said in some of the cases such as the C U marketing fraud in 1999, in which 29,000 investors lost money in an alleged ponzi scheme, it had been more than two decades. While over 9,200 investors had been refunded, nearly 19,500 investors were yet to get their money.

“We suspect several would have died. However, even now, victims in this case do turn up at the unit,” the officer said. Refunds in these cases vary from a few thousands to a few lakhs that were refunded to people who had contributed to the principal amount in another ponzi scheme being investigated by the EOW.

The unit is located in a small room on the second floor of a building near Azad Maidan police station. Explaining how it operated, the officer said in cases under investigation, the amount lost is in crores.

The officer added that after the court ordered the attachment of property of the accused and sale to recover investors’ money, the competent authority got a valuation done following which the court decided the proportion in which the money was to be disbursed. In some cases, all victims are given the same amount irrespective of the money lost, while in others, it is a percentage of the deposit.

“At times, when the valuation amount from proceeds of crime is higher, the court allows three times or four times the amount deposited by the victim to be refunded to them,” an officer at the unit said.

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