INVESTIGATIONS by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka police into a nearly Rs 1,400 crore scam, where over 40,000 investors in a firm called I Monetary Advisory Ltd have been cheated through a Ponzi scheme dubbed as sharia-compliant, have revealed that the firm’s founder, Mohammed Mansoor Khan, maintained records on his computer of bribes he paid officials.
The names of several top police officers who served in the eastern jurisdiction of Bengaluru city, where the IMA Group is located, are present in the records maintained by the alleged scamster, multiple police sources familiar with details of records found on Khan’s electronic gadgets said.
With the SIT moving to obtain custody of Mansoor Khan on Thursday — for the first time after the IMA founder was brought back to India from Dubai 10 days ago by officials of the SIT and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of the Ministry of Finance – investigations are expected to focus on the alleged payments documented by Mansoor Khan on his computer.
Over the last 10 days, Khan was in the custody of ED officials who have registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against him. He was handed over to judicial custody on Thursday by the ED and following this, the SIT obtained a body warrant to take Khan into custody.
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“There are a lot of details that have been found but these details are of no use as evidence unless they can be corroborated through investigation. Once Mansoor Khan is interrogated, the veracity of the alleged payments that have been documented can be verified,’’ SIT sources said.
Police sources said that as per the records found from the electronic gadgets, the payments Khan allegedly made to police officers, including several IPS officers, ranging from Rs 3 crore to Rs 20 crore. “Of the nearly Rs 1,400 crore that was collected from investors by the IMA Group, we have been able to account for only around Rs 400 crore and so we need to find out where the remaining Rs 1,000 crore went. This can be done only when he is in our custody,’’ an SIT source said.
“Since Khan was dealing with huge amounts of payments in cash that he made to everyone from subordinates to officials to keep IMA’s activities going, he maintained detailed records of the payments,’’ a police source familiar with the investigation into the IMA scam said.
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In audio and video messages released while he was in hiding for over a month in Dubai, after disappearing on June 8, Mohammed Mansoor Khan claimed to have been cheated by politicians and officials who extorted funds from him to enable his firm to continue operating amid complaints.
“Many people were successful in bringing me down. I have details of all those who harassed and extorted and I will place it all before the judiciary. If I name the people now, they will finish my family. When we give black money, there is no record or receipt but funds have to be returned. Those who have caused loss must be punished,’’ Khan said in a video released in June.
“There are a list of names and if you can do it, take your funds from them. I will give evidence to all authorities. It is up to you to take the funds,’’ he stated in the video message in June.
The SIT and the ED have extensively questioned former Congress minister Zameer Ahmed Khan over a payment of Rs 9.38 crore he allegedly received from IMA. Zameer Ahmed, who was questioned on Wednesday for over six hours by the SIT, claimed that his financial transactions with the IMA founder were over the sale of a piece of prime land he owned in the heart of Bangalore in 2017-18.
The SIT has also served notices to the former Congress MLA R Roshan Baig to appear for investigations after Mansoor Khan alleged that he paid Rs 400 crore to Baig which the politician never repaid. “We have to ascertain whether Khan’s allegations are genuine,’’ SIT sources said.
The SIT has served a notice on three policemen who served in the Bangalore East division, who provided a clean chit to IMA’s operations a few years ago, to appear before it on Friday for investigations. IPS officer Ajay Hillori, who was the DCP East, is among the officers summoned.
“A clean chit was given by these officials to IMA saying the firm does not come under the ambit of the Karnataka Protection of Interest of Depositors (KPID) in Financial Establishments Act, 2004, despite the police having no powers to verify the firm under the KPID Act,’’ police sources said.
This initial clean chit given by the Bengaluru city police – specifically the East division – was followed by a clean chit given under the KPID Act by an Inspector General of Police at the Criminal Investigation Department in Karnataka in 2018. The Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Bangalore Urban Revenue Department followed suit — issuing clean chits to IMA’s Ponzi investment scheme — citing police reports from the city police and the CID.
The SIT has in its investigations found that the Assistant Commissioner for the Bangalore North revenue division L C Nagaraj was paid a bribe of Rs 3.5 crore by Mansoor Khan through his associates and the Deputy Commissioner, IAS officer B M Vijayshankar, was paid Rs 1.5 crore.
Both the Assistant Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner were arrested last month by the SIT and part of the funds collected as bribes by the officials to favour IMA has been recovered under provisions of the KPID Act in order to return funds to cheated investors. The revenue department is incidentally the primary authority for implementing the KPID Act of 2004.
The SIT on Thursday also decided to approach the ED for details of its findings from the questioning of Mansoor Khan over the last 10 days in order to facilitate its own investigations.