EOW struggles with frauds of 12,000 crore

Written By Unknown on Senin, 25 November 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Shortage of manpower in the city's economic offences wing has witnessed slow disposal of cases resulting thousands of cases, involving Rs 12,395 crore in various economic cases, got stuck in court proceedings.

Records available with the TOI show that since January 1, 2010 to October 2013 the EOW registered 459 economic cases wherein Rs 12,395 crore were shown as cheating/fraud money. The biggest among them are two recent cases; SpeakAsia fraud and the National Sport Exchange Ltd (NSEL). Most of the officers are burdened with large number of cases. While they have to work a lot to make a case watertight, strength of investigators is very less, said police sources. Each officer is currently handling more than 10 cases each. "In a single case, we have to record the statement of hundreds of people (in ponzy schems/double the money scheme etc), making seizure, conducting raids, sending the evidence for forensic audit and analysis, etc. the staff shortage delays the investigation," said an EOW officer. The NSEL case FIR alone stands a fraud amount of Rs 5,600 crore while the SpeakAsia frau amount, as per police estimate, is more than Rs 2,276 crore.

The EOW, since its inception in 1994, has registered more than 2,000 cases till date. For its 11 units, there are 76 police officers and 174 constables. "Our priority is to help people by disposing off cases so that the culprits could be punished. However, most of the times the cases do not come on board of charges are not framed. In fact, in 2012 the city police commissioner had sent a proposal to the state Law and Judiciary department recommending setting up a special court to try the EOW cases. However, the proposal was lying with the state for over a year. Last month, a reminder has again been sent to the state about the recommendation.

"Now a day, people are falling prey to the ponzy schemes and have become greedy. They want their money to be doubled overnight and hence they invest randomly. We have found there are victims who have invested in three to four 'double the money' schemes at a time," said an officer, adding that such victims feel that if they lose money at one scheme, they would recover in another. The Speakasia case, for instance, has more than 24 lakh investors, called panelists. In this case, there is only one investigating officer who is struggling to file the charge sheet against more than one and half a dozen accused.

There are EOW units that are working overtime. In case of NSEL, the EOW had to take help from the detection crime branch to raid more than 185 places at a time last month. The team was to raid, video graph, and record the statements of the accused and seal the premises. "When it comes to bigger investigations where more manpower is required, we have to take help from sister agencies since our manpower is very less," the officer added. There are over 400 cases which are still under the investigation.

How ponzy schemes work? A fraudulent company floats a scheme. People invest. The money collected is used to reimburse the initial investors. As people start getting money, more people invest. As money is collected from new investors, commissions are paid from their kitty to those who joined earlier. The older investors start showing cheques they received to the new investors and prospective ones, boosting confidence in the scheme. Investors start getting friends and relatives into the scheme. Once a huge amount is collected, the founders shut shop and flee.

Under probe for fraud:

Ravindra and Vasuda Deshmukh | Aryarup Travel and Club Resort| Promised investors 86% return per year and commission if they brought in others

Sandeep Shukla | Aurum Realty, Yes Cube Infrastructure, Bristal Builders and Developers | Promised investors 75-100% return per year

Masood Ahmed | City Limousine | Promised investors 50% return per year

MMM INDIA CASE: In June this year, EOW registered a cheating and criminal conspiracy case against a firm, MMMindia for allegedly duping more than 70,000 people of nearly Rs 2,000 crore. The FIR names more than 17 people, including five foreigners, as accused. While the foreigners, all Russian nationals, include promoters Sergey Mavrodi, Alexei Muratov, Michel Glukhov and Kilin Adery, the other accused are Indian nationals. Mavrodi is a convict in Russia in a multi-level marketing fraud, the police said.

SPEAKASIA FRAUD: The company duped investors to the tune of Rs 2,276 crore. SpeakAsia had promised to pay Rs 52,000 as returns on successful completion of surveys in a year. The fee (or investment) for this was Rs 11,000. There are more than 24 lakh members/panelists for this firm.

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