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Top Speak Asia executive,three aides held for duping investors

Speak Asia had promised steep investment returns through a multi-marketing pyramid model.

Police on Friday arrested four officials of Singapore-based online survey company Speak Asia,including chief operating officer in India Tarak Vimlendu Bajpai,on charges of duping over 12 lakh investors across India to the tune of Rs 1,300 crore. The others include portal technicians Rajeev Manmohan Mehrotra,Shaikh Rais Latif and finance accountant Ravi Janakraj Khanna.

Speak Asia had promised steep investment returns through a multi-marketing pyramid model. Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy said Bajpai,who had served in the short service commission in the Air Force,was detained in Indore and brought here on Thursday while the rest were nabbed from Mumbai. They were produced before a court,which remanded them in police custody till August 4. The charges against them include cheating,criminal conspiracy and breach of trust under the IPC and several sections under the rarely-cited Prize Chits And Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act,1978.

Investigators said a watchman,who had been shown as the owner of one of their three companies,is also being probed for his role in the scam. Founder Harinder Kaur,a Singapore national of Indian origin,has been named as wanted along with Dubai-based chief executive officer Manoj Sharma.

It has been learnt that the police have picked up one Dipankar Sharma,one of the earlier investors,and he will be presented in court on Saturday.

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An investor or panelist Navneet Khosla had approached the Mumbai Crime Branch’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) after his repeated calls for payment were not answered. The EOW had investigated the complaint for nearly a month with assistance from the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department,during which it came across a “call centre” based out of a Lokhandwala house,Andheri,where all the Internet interactions with the investors were being done.

Roy said the online portal requires an individual to subscribe to an Internet-based password-operated magazine termed e-zine at an annual membership of Rs 11,000. Once done,an individual becomes a panelist who then has to answer two marketing surveys every week,for which he is paid Rs 500 each,making it a return of Rs 52,000 at the end of a year.

There was also a provision of reward points of Rs 50 for every ten points in what is termed as an ‘e-wallet’. It had also claimed that Bata,ICICI and other big brands would buy their surveys,which these corporates have denied.

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The investors or panelists were also promised commission on every new investor added. “Based on their own estimate,the company claims it has around 12 lakh panelists. If this is true,then we are looking at a figure of Rs 1,320 crore,” Roy said.

First published on: 30-07-2011 at 01:40:13 am
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