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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


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