March 27, 2021 7:41:37 am
Almost two years after the first FIR was registered in the Samar Estate fraud case, prime accused Vinod Bagai was arrested from his Panchkula residence, but granted bail on medical grounds Thursday. The accused’s wife Sunita Bagai and relative Virender Bagai had been arrested on February 19 and sent to judicial custody.
The case came to light when the first FIR was registered on July 31, 2019. As many as 18 FIRs have since been filed in the case against the accused, spanning over more than one and a half years, at the Sector 20 police station of Panchkula.
The arrests came soon after the Punjab and Haryana High Court had, last November, sought a reply from the Panchkula SP on an application moved by a war disabled soldier against prime accused Vinod Bagai, director of Samar Estate, in his housing project ESS Vee Apartments for passing directions to police department for initiating action and arrest all the three accused.
History of the company
Between 1998 and 2003, the company completed 11 projects as builders. It was in 2005-06 when the three directors launched their new project, ‘ESS VEE Apartments’, and the present accused with the other co-accused started booking flats in the project. Bookings were taken between 2005-06 to 2013-14 with assurances that possession of flats will be delivered within three years.
Over 400 people booked and await possession of these 3BHK flats in the Ess Vee Society of Panchkula. FIRs by victims allege a total fraud of more than Rs 300 crore in the matter. Allegations of fraud by misappropriating and diverting funds collected from allottees have also been leveled against the accused.
All FIRs state that the victims had been lured by several advertisements made by accused Vinod Bagai and two others to invest in a 3 BHK at a cost of Rs 67.7 lakh in Project ESS VEE Apartments being built in Panchkula Sector 20, with the promise of possession within three years in 2011. Having waited several years, an association of the aggrieved started filing FIRs in 2019.
Case in other courts
The complainants had first moved the Haryana Real Estate Regulatory Authority (HRERA) for possession of the flats or refunds with interest. HRERA had directed that the accused to give possession in three phases — first phase upto December 2018, second phase upto March 2019 and third phase upto December 2019.
When the accused failed to follow, HRERA, in an order dated January 6 this year, had directed the accused to present recovery, but the orders were not complied with.
It was during the HRERA proceedings that a forensic audit conducted by an investigating agency had shown gross financial irregularities amounting to misappropriation of investors’ money and forgery in the account books of the Samar Estate company.
Complainants have alleged: “The accused in connivance with the other co-accused has formed shell companies to fraud the money given by the investors. They formed a shell/shadow company named SRV Investments and showed about 39 flats booked in the name of said SRV.”
Delay in arrest
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed in late August by the then DCP Deepak Gahlawat with the go-ahead of CP Saurabh Singh, to look into the case. It had not submitted even a single report as of November 27 last year, despite the mounting number of FIRs and high number of victims in the case.
The inaction by Panchkula police despite the formation of an SIT to specifically look into the FIRs against the accused had been the prime cause that led Major Pinto Pandit (retd), a war disabled solider and one among the 400 people who await possession, to move court. The High Court had on November 24 directed the Panchkula SP to file a personal affidavit on status of the matter within a month.
The matter is now listed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for April 7, by when the police department is required to submit its ‘Action Taken Report’ against all the accused.
“The police got into action only when the complainants approached High Court. The matter is still pending in High Court with regard to inaction of police department against all the accused,” said a statement by the ESS VEE Apartments Home Buyers Association.
Both HRERA and State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission have in the past issued non-bailable warrants against Bagai due to non-compliance of orders by respective courts. The orders were to be implemented by an inspector-level officer of the Panchkula police.
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