The Nagpur police has busted a Rs 100 crore software-aided multi-level marketing (MLM) ponzi investment racket affecting more than 25,000 people across India.
The racket, operated in three different modules, was exposed when it was trying to lure people with the offer of a coin disguised as fake cryptocurrency.
“The racket began in 2015 with a certain Vijay Gurnule setting up a real estate company, Metro Vision Buildcon Ltd, which offered double the invested amount in 18 months or a plot of land. Gurnule would offer notorised agreements to sale, earning investors’ trust,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Noorul Hasan, who led the investigation. “Gurnule actually didn’t have any plots to offer,” he added.
“Beginning March this year, he joined hands with two others, Devendra Gaajbhiye and Sunil alias Sonu Shrikhande, in the online MLM by creating four websites, inviting people to invest Rs 3,000 and bring two more investors each for Rs 3,000 or themselves make all three. This way, they generated investments from at least 500 people,” Hasan said, adding, “They would offer to pay them double the amount in 20 weeks.”
“They would give each investor one ID. This way, they created 2.5 lakh IDs with 25,000 people investing from all over the country, except from Andman-Nicobar and Lakshdweep. Total investments rose to Rs 80 crore in a few months,” Hasan added.
The accused managed to give some initial investors returns as promised but soon started faltering on it, police said. “Then they conceived the idea of offering cryptocurrency, which they called Metro Coin, for which they developed a software. Each coin was valued at $3,000. Those whom they wear unable to pay cash were given crypto coins,” Hasa said.
The accused then planned to launch 15 companies with Rs 500 crore investment by 2020-21 and shift their business to Dubai and Thailand. “But we detected the racket early and foiled the plan following a complaint by one of the investors, Ganesh Chafle, who had put in Rs 11 lakh,” said Hasan.
Till date, the police have arrested 12 people. Gurnule was caught after a chase in Shegaon tahsil of Buldana district while he was speeding away from the police at 150 kmph.
Gurnule had dumped Rs 48 lakh in a 3-feet-deep pit at a relative’s place in Amravati, which was recovered on November 20, police said. At least Rs 7 lakh were seized from a certain Tanmay Jadhav of Nagpur, police said. Shrikhande’s brother from Seoni in Madhya Pradesh brought Rs 69 lakh deposited by Sonu in various bank accounts of his relatives, police said. At least Rs 50 lakh were seized from Gurnule’s real estate company account, police said.
“We are trying to account for the remaining amount, which the accused and their acquaintances have invested in several properties and are likely to have stashed away somewhere. We will also be zeroing in on other culprits who abetted or participated in the racket,” Hasan said.
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