CBI charge-sheets Bhangoo, 5 others; silent on ‘benefactors’
Bhangoo and three others were arrested in the case on January 8, 2016 after evading the law for almost two years since the case was registered against them.
The charge sheet was filed against Bhangoo, his firms Pearl Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL), Pearls Golden Forest Ltd (PGF), and its promoters and directors Sukhdev Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Subrata Bhattacharya under various sections of the IPC and the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978.
On October 13, 2014, Millennium Post had broken the story on how the CBI had ‘compromised’ India’s biggest Rs 47,000-crore (then estimated value) ponzi scam investigation. Curiously, Pearl group chairman Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, against whom the CBI had registered a case on February 19, 2014, for allegedly duping over five crore customers by promising them land and goods remained a free for almost two years.
Surprisingly, the agency’s charge sheet does not name any powerful benefactor unlike other chit fund scams in which several politicians were arrested by the CBI at the very initial stage of the probe. In the recent Saradha scam case in West Bengal, when CBI took over the case from the state police, they kept Sudipta Sen under their custody and arrested a number of people who allegedly helped Saradha group to thrive.
However, the agency has applied different standards while investigating the links and conspiracy behind India’s biggest ponzi scam.
In the Pearls group case, there is enough evidence that promoter Bhangoo was close to a number of senior politicians, forget arrest, none of them have been even called for questioning.
Even after registering of the case by CBI, Pearls group had continued to publish ads in different magazines and newspapers and in one of the ads even wished union home minister Rajnath Singh on his birthday.
Revealing the nexus between powerful politicians and bureaucrats who helped Bhangoo to thrive, a senior official had told Millennium Post that they had evidence that certain people in the RBI and the SEBI were also beneficiaries of this group like many powerful politicians. But they were unable to go ahead because of directions from the top.
The CBI sources revealed that Bhangoo and his accomplices cheated investors to the tune of Rs 47,000 crore through 23 lakh agents who received Rs 9500 crore as commission to lure over 5.5 crore investors.
“Agents, which included 1700 senior executives, worked in a multi-level marketing mode, received a commission of a whopping over Rs 9500 crore between 1996 and 2012 for allegedly luring the gullible investors to deposit in their multiple agricultural land schemes,” said the official.
Explaining the modus operandi of Pearl Group’s business, the official said that the companies– PACL and PGF– claimed investors would be given agricultural land in lieu of their deposits with the company. Once deposits were made, the company promised to provide investors with an allotment letter within 90 to 270 days.
“The company allegedly provided these allotment letters to the investors with the condition that it reserved the right to change the location of the land allotted to them any time. However, they allotted lands which did not even belong to them,” he further said.