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Faiz Rahman Siddiqui, TNN 9 August 2009, 06:10am IST

All the law enforcement agencies including the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and UP police were put on a high alert here on
Saturday following the revelation made by senior State Bank of India officials that the owner of SRS Entertainment Company, Hanish Ram Chandani and his three co-partners, including his father, mother and his wife, have duped the bank
of whopping Rs 44 crore.

"We have already referred the case to CBI and also informed UP police to keep an eye on all the four accused so that they do not flee the country," said SBI sources.

Meanwhile, a member of a spot audit team from Hyderabad said that such kind of huge financial bungling cannot be done only by one person and added that "there's more than what meets the eye''.

"We are still investigating the case and more serious revelations are likely to come in the coming days and we are expecting that by Tuesday, first round of preliminary investigations will be over," said SBI general manager Arun Sarin.

Eight employees of SBI Kanpur main branch have already been suspended in connection with the case.

While deputy general manager, SBI main branch, Sanjay Dixit was suspended on Thursday, the remaining seven - AGM Ajeet Gupta, chief manager Jai Deep Banerjee, manager Vipin Kanaujiya and four others were suspended on Wednesday.

SBI chief general manager BV Chaubal, who is heading the inquiry into the scam, said Hanish Ram Chandani, who also owns a chain of filling stations in and around the city had opened a current account in the SBI for his firm -- SRS Entertainment Company -- in the year 2007. Later, in 2008, the firm opened two more accounts. The firm opened another account in 2009.

"Fake cheques were credited into the accounts of the four including Hanish, with the help of the bank officials," said an SBI official. The bank officials used to overdraft approvals without doing proper formalities, he claimed further.

"When the amount crosses Rs 5 crore then as per the Reserve Bank of India guidelines, the case should be handed over to the CBI, informed Chaubal while talking to TOI. The case has already been referred to the CBI besides other law enforcement agencies including the headquarters of RBI in Mumbai and Lucknow, he added.

A senior SBI officer said investigation of SBI main branch here located on Mahatma Gandhi Marg are being conducted in a manner which has not hampered the working of the bank.

SP (City) Dharamveer Singh, however, said the police are on the lookout for the four accused and we are trying to provide all sort of assistance to SBI officials.

Probe areas:

* Where the four accused have invested the whopping sum of Rs 44 crore.

* Besides four accused, who else is involved in the scam.

* What was the modus-operandi of withdrawing money.

Source: TOI

Nigerian national arrested in email fraud case in KANNUR

A Nigerian national was arrested here on Saturday in connection with an investigation into a case of email fraud that cost its victim here huge sum of money.

The 34-year old Nigerian, identified as Shaba Abdul Razak, was arrested by the police here at the end of a month-long probe into what is commonly referred to as ’419 scam’ or Nigerian email scam following a complaint from its victim hailing from Valapattanam here. The police here were still to ascertain whether the name found on his ID card was his real name. Disclosing the arrest of the Nigerian national, Inspector General of Police (Kannur Range) Tomin J. Thachankary saidthat the arrest followed an elaborate investigation with the co-operation of police officials in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry. The investigation also revealed that more people had fallen prey to thefraud by Nigerian racket in which the arrested was a member, he said, adding that the racket had fraudulently extracted an estimated Rs. 3 crore from its victims who hail from these States.

Mr. Thanchankary said that the police unravelled the email scam after Shareef, the victim, who had been working in Qutar, sent a complaint to Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan about his loss of huge amount after he was duped by the racket. The Home Minister had forwarded the complaint to the Cyber wing of the police. The Valapattanam police had registered the case and started investigation.

The scam had had its origin in an email message that Shareef had received in February 2008. The message sent from a mail ID purportedly from Bank of Africa had informed that Shareef had been selected as nominee to inherit a rich fortune ($15 million) left by a millionaire, the IG said. After a few exchange of emails, Shareef had been asked to go to the African city Burkina Faso to receive the fortune. When he had replied his inability to go there, he got a reply informing that a financial attorney had been appointed for overseeing the transfer of the amount. Shareef had also been asked to send 29,500 euro through Western Union Money Transfer as fee for the attorney, Mr. Thachankary said.

The IG said that Shareef had sent total 80,000 euro in response to requests from time to time by the Nigerian fraudsters for more money citing various excuses. Two members of the racket including the arrested had come to the victim’s house with a few bundles of blackened US dollars and said that the currency was blackened to avoid being found out by Customs officials. They also demanded more money from Shareef to purchase chemicals to clean the currency.

Following the complaint from Shareef, the police set a trap for the racket operating in the country. The Nigerian had been nabbed by the police in Bangalore and brought here, the IG said. He said that most of those who had fallen prey to the racket, as found from the email account accessed by the police, were not willing to lodge complaints about their being duped.

He also said that the amount transferred through the Western Union Money Transfer had been withdrawn in minutes by the fraudsters. The police, however, succeeded to freeze some of the money transferred by Shareef. The Nigerian scam racket often send computer viruses to victims’ computers to extract information about them and their contacts, he said. He also said that many Nigerians living in Mumbai and New Delhi were suspected to have been members of the fraudster racket. They also use their Indian associates to open bank accounts. As soon as they reached India, they use fake passports and ID cards, he added.

Source: The Hindu

Vigilance nails mining scam

Even as the illegal mining issue in Keonjhar district continues to rage, the state vigilance directorate has decided to file
criminal cases soon against a number of government officials who were allegedly involved in scam involving private company Raj Bahadur Thakur Limited, officials said on Saturday.

The state vigilance, which on Friday submitted to the state government a preliminary report confirming illegal mining and smuggling of iron and manganese ores from Rudukela and Katasahi in Keonjhar district, is currently engaged in the process of identifying the "real culprits" behind the illegal activities involving RBTL, officials said. "We have got the names of a number of government officials. It will take a few more days to identify the officials who are involved in this case," a vigilance source said.

According to vigilance wing's progress report, illegal mining had been found at the mines, for which RBTL had applied lease in 1994, as well as adjacent areas, including forest land. Vigilance sources revealed that the illegal activities had taken place with support from some officials of the state mines and forest departments.

Meanwhile, the state BJP, which blew the lid off the alleged Rs 4000 crore scam during the recent Budget session, said the vigilance findings had proved that the allegations being made by the party were correct. "The vigilance report is praiseworthy. But considering the magnitude of the scam and the possible involvement of political and other bigwigs, we demand that the CBI inquiry into the matter," state BJP president Suresh Pujari told a press conference.

Pujari maintained the RBTL scam was just the "tip of the iceberg" and indicated that the "kingpin" of the scam was a member of the ruling BJD. He, however, refused to name anyone and dared chief minister Naveen Patnaik to "prove his claims of honesty" and hand over the case to the CBI.

Source: TOI

Octroi vigilance unearths Rs 19 lakh fraud

The drive of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to plug the loopholes in its octroi collection department has begun to pay off well from the
start of the drive since June this year. The octroi vigilance department has begun catching big fishes that used to escape the octroi tax net and some octroi officials are also likely to get caught up in the net for allowing the irregularities to take place.

The department unearthed a major scam involving the evasion of octroi at the Kalyan Phata and Shil Phata octroi collection posts on August 1. The persons involved in the scam used to pass goods laden vehicles into the city limits from the two nakas upon the production of bogus receipts of octroi payment and never used to get caught till now.

Arvind Akashi, the Assistant Municipal Commissioner (AMC) in charge of the octroi vigilance wing informed Thane Plus that he came across copies of some fake octroi tax payment receipts from Sana Agency, a licensed distributor of the soft drinks giant Pepsi. The agency had submitted the receipts to the giant and claimed refund of payment of octroi on the import of the soft drinks into Thane.

"We enquired the receipts and came to know that they were fake. We then sought with the company management to give us original copies of the receipts so that criminal of cheating and forgery can be filed against the accused," the AMC said. He added that the company gave ten original receipts reportedly issued between April 1, 2008 and March 31, this year.

All the receipts were found to be counterfeit in almost all respects. The paper used in the printing of the fake receipts was of a different quality than that of the original TMC receipts and so was the Marathi language font of the printing. Besides this the monogram and logo of the corporation printed in the centre of the receipt was also put up in a blurred way in the bogus receipts and was distinguishable readily from that of the original one.

The department came to know that the Shil Phata based agency had imported soft drinks to the tune of Rs 4.71 crore in the previous financial year and was supposed to pay around Rs 18.85 lakh by way of octroi tax to the TMC at the rate of four percent of the cost of imports. The vigilance officials also came to know that the agency had changed its name to Sweety Agency some one month ago and the intention of the change was not known.

The vigilance officials then filed a complaint of cheating with forgery of civic documents, misuse of logo signs and forgery of signature of octroi officials against the owner of the agency. The Daighar police registered the case under thirteen different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on August 1 and have begun the investigations. One person is known to have been taken into custody so far.

The civic administration is strongly of the view that the octroi clearing agent of the agency could be the main culprit behind the scam. It is also said that the octroi officials posted at the Kalyan Phata and Shil Phata octroi nakas could be hand in glove with the culprits to allow the irregularities to take place. The belief is in the wake of the fact that it is almost impossible for any goods laden vehicle to drive into the city without payment of octroi by showing bogus octroi payment receipts to the naka officials.

The AMC made it clear that he has called upon the police to book everyone found involved in the racket even if the accused were civic officials also. "We want to put an end to the practice and make sure that all goods laden vehicles bound for the city pay their due octroi at all the octroi collection posts and the officials posted at the nakas also do their duties honestly," the AMC further added.

It may be noted that three lower level staffers posted at the Kalva octroi collection post were suspended from service after being found involved in octroi evasion racket along with transporters. The detection was made by the AMC and his superiors during a visit to the naka in the dark of the night following allegations of an organised racket.


Joaquim promises to nail CCP scamsters

The urban development minister, Joaquim Alemao, on Wednesday assured the legislative assembly that the government would not spare any
person involved in the various scams at the Corporation of the city of Panaji (CCP) and that "the guilty will be brought to book by filing proper cases in appropriate agencies of the government".

Replying to the debate on the demand of the directorate of municipal administration, Alemao said that the CCP's new commissioner, Sanjit Rodrigues, has asked for three months to verify facts in the issues of daily wage workers and the allotment and rent of shops and to streamline the functioning of the corporation. It maybe recalled that TOI first reported about the corporation paying salaries to ghost' workers on July 14.

Alemao said the commissioner has admitted that excess staff has been recruited without the permission of the government and that he has to carry out verification of the physical presence of the workforce.

Alemao said the commissioner also observed several irregularities in the allotment of shops, stalls, etc in the new market. "No proper record has been kept on what basis the allotments have been made. Therefore, he (commissioner) has proposed to undertake a fresh survey of shops, stalls and platforms and has requested three months to complete the survey and streamline the allotments," Alemao said.

The urban development minister also said that the commissioner has observed irregularities in the collection and disposal of garbage by employing private contractors. No tenders have been floated before signing of MoUs for collection of garbage and for transportation of garbage. Even though there was a crisis of garbage collection, after making emergency arrangements, it was the primary responsibility of the CCP to follow codal formalities. It has been observed that important clauses of the agreement have been tampered with. This has to be reported to vigilance department, Alemao said.

He added that irregularities mentioned in the report of the commissioner indicate loss of revenue to the CCP. "After going into details of the irregularities, a need to fix responsibility is of utmost importance so that this type of irresponsible behaviour does not spread to other municipalities," Alemao said.

Source: TOI

Orissa cops bust Rs 107-crore cheat' funds scam

The state Crime Branch on Wednesday claimed to have busted a multi-crore scam involving fake marketing companies and chit funds. Police
said they have frozen bank accounts worth Rs 107 crore and arrested one person in this connection.

SP (Crime Branch) Santosh Bala said sleuths from the department had arrested Saroj Kumar Samanta (30) from Akandi in Balasore district's Singla police station area on Tuesday.

"Samanta had been running a fake company, Dream Achiever, since April 14 by hosting a website www.dreamachiever.in. Though he was operating the company from Balasore, he had given a Delhi address," the SP said.

DSP (Crime Branch) Pramod Kumar Panda, who led the investigation, said Dream Achiever duped public by promising them to triple their money within a year. The trick had worked and around Rs 4.46 crore was deposited into the accounts of Dream Achiever within a short span of time. "The scheme came with offers for prospective investors, who were promised special discounts for introducing two other depositors," Panda said. The Crime Branch investigation came in the wake of several complaints lodged with Balasore police by money losers. After a preliminary investigation, SP (Balasore) Rekha Lohani had handed the case over to Crime Branch.

"As many as six cases have been registered in this connection. We are also inquiring into the involvement of banks in the racket without whose help such companies can't flourish. Besides, efforts are on to nab the promoters of other such organizations," the officer said. The Crime Branch has so far zeroed in on as many as seven such fake companies and chit fund organizations, which had been duping people by using accounts in reputed banks such as ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, IDBI Bank and SBI. Officers said a total amount of Rs 107 crore have been frozen in 11 accounts held in branches of the banks in several cities, including Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Kanpur, Delhi and Mumbai.

"The companies whose accounts have been frozen include Trident Advertising & Trade Link Pvt Ltd, Fine Indisales Pvt Ltd, Eve Industries, Lakshya Level Marketing Pvt Ltd, Lui Brail Educational Society, Many Mantra Marketing Services Pvt Ltd and Dream Achiever," Panda said. "Apart from these seven, many such companies are operating in and outside Orissa and the total money involved in the racket will be more than Rs 1,000 crore. Orissa's share will not be less than Rs 150 crore," he added.

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India had warned all nationalized and private banks not to have accounts of as many as 10 such companies, including six that are already under the Crime Branch scanner. The other four are Alaska India, Superlife Linked Distributors, Star Consultancy Pvt Ltd and Seashore Funds Management Pvt Ltd.

An RBI memorandum on July 11 had advised not to allow these 10 companies and organisations to open accounts with them. "These MMCs are opening accounts without complying with Know-Your-Customer (KYC) norms and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Act. Innocent people are being trapped by fraudulent schemes launched by such unscrupulous persons and companies," the memorandum read.


Teacher-cheaters show the way to a scam

At least 16 lecturers from colleges affiliated to Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) seem to be more interested in "cheating" than "teaching". In a blatant violation of University Act provisions, these lecturers have enrolled themselves for "regular" MTech courses in Basaveshwar College of Engineering, Bagalkot. But none of these lecturers are residents of Bagalkot.

The relevant University Act provisions state that varsity lecturers should either go on leave for attending regular classes or restrict their educational pursuits to correspondence courses. According to records available with DNA, all these 16 lecturers have managed to obtain full attendance from the Bagalkot college despite being at work during the period.

According to higher education department officials, there is something fishy about the entire affair. The department has already set up a committee to probe the incident.

"We are waiting for the report and after that we will take necessary action against everyone involved: from the lecturers to the principal of the 'aided' college," UB Ulavi, under secretary, department of higher education (university), said. Ulavi wondered how these lectures managed to obtain full attendance simultaneously at work and in college.

All these 16 lecturer-students have recently appeared for their second semester MTech examinations and are waiting for the results. According to rules, a postgraduate student needs to have 75% attendance to be eligible to appear for examinations.

Sources from the Bagalkot college said the 16 lecturers had managed to gain a backdoor entry to MTech courses by paying a huge fee. The package deal included the issue of attendance, they added. Marithibbe Gowda, who recently raised the issue in the Legislative Council, said, "Most of the 50 engineering colleges that run PG courses in the state are committing this fraud. If the lecturers are keen on studying, they can go on leave or join a correspondence course."

Those joining regular MTech courses even as they are working pay nearly Rs1 lakh as annual fee, as against the prescribed Rs60,000. The extra amount takes care of their attendance, Gowda added.

Why the double acting
A major reason for the demand for MTech courses among lecturers is a rule framed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), that makes it mandatory for colleges over five years' old to recruit only those with an MTech degree.

Dr HP Kincha, Vice-Chancellor, VTU said, "I got to know about the issue only after it came up during the session. We immediately formed a committee which has already visited the college. After the report is submitted, we will discuss the issue with the Senate and decide on the follow-up action."

Roll call of infamy
Among the 16 lecturers who have enrolled for MTech courses in Basaveshwar College of Engineering are:

Jayaprakash Wilfred Pinto (Dr MVSIT, Mangalore)

Anil and Ashok (both from Bijapur Polytechnic College)

Murulidhar (Gadag Polytechnic College)

Dinesh Jogi (Sunkadakatte Polytechnic, Mangalore)

Gurudutt and Shivaraj (Sridevi Institute of Technology, Mangalore)

Abdullah (Anjuman Engineering College, Bhatkal)

Virupakshappa (Mudalakatte Institute of Technology, Kundapur)

Uma H (STJ Institute of Technology, Ranebennur)

Prof KG Chandrashekara, principal, Rajeev Institute of Technology, had sought information on this issue from the Basaveshwar College of Engineering, Bagalkot through an RTI application. "I complained to the RTI commissioner when I did not get any reply. After this, I got a legal notice threatening me with a defamation suit," Prof Chandrashekara said.

Source: DNA

Bangalore: Lokayukta takes up Probe into KHB Scam

The Karnataka Lokayukta has taken up an investigation into the alleged multi-crore land purchase scam in the Karnataka Housing Board (KHB), involving former Housing minister Krishnaiah Setty, based on private complaints in this regard.

The Lokayukta has already issued notices to Setty and KHB Commissioner M B Dyaberi on the case.

N S Anand, a resident of Siddlaghatta, had filed a complaint with the Lokayukta recently alleging that the KHB had cheated him by acquiring the land. Another person from Gulbarga had filed a case alleging that Krishnaiah Setty had misused his position as the Housing minister to favour his family members. Based on these complaints, Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde has directed the officials to take up investigation.

The issue had rocked the recent Legislature session with the JD(S) alleging that the KHB had decided to purchase over 950 acre farm land in Chikkaballapur at Rs 45 lakh per acre for a housing project. But the then Housing minister’s brother had bought the same land at Rs 5 lakh per acre to sell it to the KHB. He had in fact sold nearly 31 acres to the KHB at Rs 45 lakh per acre.

Both the JD(S) and the Congress had demanded a probe from either the CBI or the Lokayukta. But the government rejected the demand and ordered a probe by the Chief Secretary.

Source: Daiji World

Massive land fraud unearthed in Thoothukudi villages

A massive case land fraud, in which an individual, allegedly with the assistance of government officials, cheated 140 people of nearly
1,300 acres of land in three villages in Thoothukudi district has been unearthed by the registration department in three villages in Thoothukudi district.

The Inspector-General of Registration has ordered an inquiry into the fraud perptrated by a person claiming to possess the powers of attorney of the villagers concerned, had sold their land to a businessman in Karnataka with the alleged connivance of officials at the Kadambur sub-registrar office.

The fraud came to light when Neethiraj, a resident of Saravanapuram, asked for an encumbrance certificate for pledging the land for loan at a local bank on June 9, 2009. Neethiraj was promptly told that his land no longer belonged to him. Alarmed, the villagers, one by one, applied for encumbrance certificates, and within a week, were shocked to find that their land had been sold using forging documents without their knowledge.

On June 19, the affected persons from Sillangulam, Saravanapuram and Paramanpatheri petitioned the district revenue officer demanding cancellation of the transactions and action against the individuals involved involved in the fraud. On June 23, the villagers, led by CPM farmers' association district president Kankaraj, gave a complaint to the district collector.

In their complaint, the villagers have said none of the original land owners' photos or identity proof had been given at the time of registering the power of attorney and that the fraud could not have taken place without the knowledge of the village administrative officer of Sillangulam and the sub-registrar of Kadambur.

All the forged documentation was done at the Kadambur sub-registrar office on August 26, 2008 and June 1, 2009, say officials of the registration department. In the first batch, 310 acres of land belonging to 52 villagers had been sold. In the second batch, documents of nearly a thousand acres owned by about 92 persons had been forged. The market rate of one acre is between 30 to 50 thousand and the farms cost Rs one lakh per acre in the villages.

"In the preliminary inquiry, we have found that the lands of some of the villagers had been sold without their knowledge. We have ordered a detailed enquiry,'' said a senior official at the department headquarters in Chennai. Admitting that the land scam could not have taken place without the connivance officials at the sub-registrar's office, the officer said some of the staff, including the then sub-registrar, would be suspended from service soon. The registration department would also ask the district collector to initiate criminal proceedings against the individuals involved in forgery and cheating, he emphasised.

"The authorities should ensure the cancellation of forged documentation and hand over the patta back to the original land owners," says S Kandasamy, a retired officer of the Indian Air Force, and one of the affected farmers.

Source: TOI

Ex-MP sentenced to five-year RI in fodder scam

The special CBI court has awarded former RJD MP R K Rana and 11 others five-year rigorous imprisonment in the multi-crore fodder scam on

Rana, a close aide of RJD supremo and former railway minister Lalu Prasad, has been sentenced to five-year rigorous imprisonment and slapped a Rs 4 lakh fine by the CBI special judge Vishweshwar Jha Praveer who held total of 14 accused guilty in the fodder scam case on Friday.

Of the remaining 11 accused, the court pronounced the minimum sentence of three-and-a-half-year RI and a fine of Rs 1.9 lakh to Sashi Kumar Sinha.

The maximum sentence of five-year RI and a fine of Rs 4.9 lakh each was awarded to Brij Bhushan Prasad and Tripurari Mohan Prasad.

Among other accused sentenced include Sashi Kumar Sinha, Umesh Prasad Singh, Krishna Deo Prasad Sinha, Satish Chander Jha, Bhanukar Dubey, Sunil Kumar Sinha, Sushil Kumar Sinha, Dayanand Kashyap and Sanjay Shankar.

Two other accused, Sawarati Chandra and Phool Singh, who were granted bail on Friday have been awarded two and two-and-a-half-year sentence respectively besides being slapped with fines of Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000.

All the accused were sentenced in case no. RC 22A/96 of fodder scam related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 28.26 lakh from Godda treasury. The case was lodged on February 28, 1996

The total number of accused in the case was 20. While four of them died during the trial, two others confessed to their involvement in the scam earlier. This was 32nd case of fodder scam case which was disposed.

A total of 53 fodder scam cases are being tried at Ranchi special CBI court. These are related to the fraudulent withdrawals from Ranchi, Gumla, Simdega, Hazaribag, Dumka, Godda, Chaibasa and Palamu district treasuries.

Source: TOI

Megacity to be investigated for fraud

MEGACITY DEVELOPERS and Builders Limited has executed sale deeds in respect of 76 sites during the period April 29 2009 to 16th July, 2009 - carved out of survey numbers 14, 19 and 21 – (10 acres, 21 guntas) in Krishnarajapura village, Kengeri Hobli, Bangalore South Taluk for which Megacity has not obtained the necessary approval from the BMICAPA – which is the approving authority. In this way, Megacity is continuing to defraud the members of Vajragiri Township by registering sites for which it has not obtained necessary approvals though it had promised during 1995-96, that it would give sites in a world-class township which has all statutory approval.

In a reply for information sought under RTI Act, BMICAPA clearly clarified that these survey numbers come under its purview and approval from the authority is absolutely required .

Megacity had collected about Rs68 crores from 10,000 members of Vajragiri Township Scheme during 1995-2000, promising sites in a world class township on the Bangalore–Mysore Road near Bidadi. To date, it has executed sales deeds only to the extent of less than 750 cases. Most of the sites registered have only temporary approval from the BMICAPA and none of the sites have the final approval from the BMICAPA, which is the approving authority.

The ministry of corporate affairs had ordered for a Serious Fraud Investigation and the CoD, Karnataka is also investigating this fraud. Income Tax authorities recently conducted raids on the premises of the managing director and a three-time MLA of Channapatna assembly, his associate companies and his relatives.

Man behind Rs 60-cr con job in police net

Crime branch officials say he has cheated over 2,500 people in the past four years of no less than Rs 60 crore. However, when the
special operation squad (SOS) reached his home in Dehra Dun on Thursday, Naveen Sharma, chairman of Money Mantra and Big Leap Multi Trade Limited, seemed to have only a quilt as his asset.

Almost a month after duped investors
protested in the city demanding his arrest, Sharma was nabbed on Thursday. He had fled from his Gurgaon residence on April 16, 2009.

Initial investigations revealed that this could become one of the big frauds to unfold in the capital. "We have received 264 complaints so far, adding up to a total of over Rs 8 crore. But documents seized from the accused point to at least 2,500 similar cases,'' said Amulya Patnaik, joint commissioner (crime). The total fraud was allegedly worth more than Rs 60 crore. "This is a conservative estimate. It could be even bigger,'' said a senior officer at the economic offences wing (EOW).

According to crime branch sources, one Akshay Kumar Singh Chauhan, a resident of Uttam Nagar, complained that he had been cheated by Sharma to the tune of Rs 1.97 crore which he had invested on the promise of lucrative returns. He was also given post-dated cheques against his investment. The cheques bounced.

Another investor, Ishwar Singh, was handed four cheques by Sharma when he deposited the minimum membership fee of Rs 15,000. He was assured a return of Rs 1000 every month for the next three years. He finally lost his deposit.

Said Dr H Narang, who invested in Money Matters: "Whoever wanted their money back had to let the companies know 20 days in advance. After taking back the cheques for investment and outstanding interest, money was actually refunded to the individual investor.''

According to Patnaik, Sharma used to invest the money he collected in the stock market. However, plummeting share prices and the global meltdown saw him suffering huge losses. But he continued paying the fixed monthly return to the investors till the beginning of 2009, all the while being sucked into a debt trap. When nothing was left in his account, he disappeared from his Gurgaon home.

"Investigations revealed that Sharma also operated another company Big Leap Marketing Limited from his office at sector 7 in Dwarka. To lure investors, he even advertised in leading newspapers. Various incentive schemes were launched for existing members to attract others. He even promised higher returns to those who brought new clients,'' said an investigating officer.

It was this modus operandi that brought over 40% of his "clients'' from the military and paramilitary forces including the NSG, Army, Navy, SPG and Delhi Police. "Slain NSG commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan reportedly invested in his company. We are investigating if he was cheated. No complaints have been received so far from his family,'' said a crime branch source. So far, over 100 complaints have been from men in uniform.

Sharma is an MBA from Delhi. Married with two children, Sharma worked in Gurgaon for two years before starting out on his own.

"In 2005, he started his business of share trading and initially benefited from it. Thereafter, he floated a firm Money Mantra to get more money from outside,'' said Patnaik.

In 2008, he started another company, Big Leap."We are investigating the role of his other family members and acquaintances in the scam. More arrests are likely,'' said an EOW investigator.

Source: TOI