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CBI puts four teams on scamster Bhangoo trail

“We have formed four separate teams and they are looking into the matter,” said Sinha on the transactions of the company owned by NRI businessman Nirmal Singh Bhangoo.

Though teams have been formed and the agency registered a case against Bhangoo on February 19, 2014, he continues to enjoy freedom thanks to his powerful backers. When queries were made on the matter earlier, CBI had claimed that he was fully cooperating in their probe and since he was following the instructions there was no need to arrest him unless they had enough evidence to put him behind bars. Even after being slammed by the market regulator SEBI, which said Bhangoo’s companies were still involved in dubious activities, CBI did not find any evidence to arrest him.

Ministry sources said, “At time when millions of investors are left to penury, PACL continues to grow after it came to our notice that they are still collecting money from people across the country with a false promise to double their amount in a short period of time, despite the market regulator’s ban.” The SEBI in its 92-page order, said, the total amount mobilised by the company by its own admission stands at a whopping Rs 49,100 crore and this figure could have been even more if PACL had furnished details of the funds mobilised during the period of April 1, 2012 to February
25, 2013.

“PACL operated a land investment scheme, which qualified as a collective investment scheme, without proper registration and investors failed to receive any land even after years of investments into schemes offered by PACL,” SEBI’s report reads.

The PACL was floated in 1996 as Gurwant Agrotech Ltd and in early 2010, he made a significant expansion to Australia purchasing the celebrated Sheraton Mirage resort. Pearl Australia has numerous projects, including construction of 1,000 apartments in Brisbane and development of 1,000 land lots in Melbourne.

As per the Global Financial Integrity Foundation (GFIF) India stands at number five among 142 countries in illicit financial flows and pegged the average flow of illegal funds in India at US $ 34,393 million.

“Over the past 12 years, a total $ 3,43,922 million dollars of illegal funds have been routed through India,” GFIF report says.

The reluctance to arrest him invited ire of  Trinamool Congress leaders who alleged that CBI was not acting against Bhangoo as he enjoyed the patronage of powerfu benefactors. Over the years, PACL has accumulated more than Rs 50,000 crore (as a single company), which would match the entire ponzi schemes in Bengal, Assam, and in Odisha. “Why the NDA government is so lenient when it comes to Bhangoo. Is it because he is close to BJP and Akali leaders in Punjab?” senior TMC leader Derek O’Brien had said.

“It is surprising that even after registering the case against Bhangoo, CBI has not arrested him even for a day. Don’t you think that CBI is acting at the behest of BJP? His group has sponsored Rs 35 crore for the mega Kabaddi event for three years organized by Deputy Chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is close to BJP. Why did the Modi government  not take any action against him?” he questioned.

In contrast, the West Bengal government acted swiftly in the Saradha ponzi scam by arresting its owner Sudipta Sen including party MP Kunal Ghosh. TMC also questioned the intention of the CBI which was selectively leaking information to the media on the Saradha scam but not even a single line on PACL group. Recently, SEBI wrote a letter to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) against PACL after it continued to flourish by collecting money ‘illegally’ despite an ongoing CBI inquiry, which is monitored by the Supreme Court.

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