ALONGSIDE cases by Central agencies, the Mumbai Police are now probing diamantaire Mehul Choksi in a separate case of alleged cheating after a Madhya Pradesh-based franchisee of their flagship company Gitanjali Jewellers lodged a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW). The franchisee has claimed that conditions of the franchise agreement were violated and she had been duped of Rs 10.47 crore.
EOW officials said investigation showed that several other franchisees had filed similar complaints against Choksi. “During the probe, we found that this was not the only case wherein the firm had duped the franchisees by violating the franchise agreement, which is a civil dispute and attracts only a civil liability. The firm is also alleged to have provided substandard gems and jewellery and inflated their costs,” said a senior official from the EOW.
Investigators will also probe whether security deposits from franchisees running into crores of rupees were used to carry out other businesses. The EOW has in the past summoned Choksi three times. “We have registered a case of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Choksi and two executive directors of Gitanjali Jewellers,” said an official. “While some of the staff and a few senior officials of the firm were questioned, Choksi never honoured the summons,” he added.
The Mumbai police will also record a detailed statement of the complainant in the case, franchisee Ritu Shrivastav. “We will soon write to her to join the investigation as we would require a detailed statement,” said the official.
Meanwhile, the firm has filed cross complaints against three franchises claiming that they made bogus franchise agreements. “The BKC police station received at least three complaints from the firm and those were transferred to us. After studying the complaints, a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) was ordered. The firm claimed that the franchise made bogus agreements. But they have failed to produce copies of the same. Since they haven’t provided the requisite documents, the PE has not been converted into an FIR,” added the official.
An email sent to Gitanjali Jewellers did not elicit any response.