Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED)'s investigation into a multicrore ponzi scheme unearthed across several states has revealed that 8,688 investors in Maharashtra have been duped.
The three promoters of Agri Gold Group of Companies -- Avva Venkata Rama Rao, Avva Venkata Seshu Narayana Rao and Avva Hema Sundara Vara Prasad – have been arrested in the Rs 6,380 crore ‘Agri Gold Ponzi’ scam.
The investigation was initiated based on multiple FIRs lodged in the states of Andhra Pradesh (AP), Telangana and Karnataka and revealed that in Maharashtra, 8,688 depositors holding 9,160 accounts had been collectively cheated to the tune of Rs 23,42,49,040.
The agency has provisionally attached assets worth Rs 4,109 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) in the fraud case. The attached assets include 2,809 landed properties, Haailand Amusement Park of M/s Arka Leisure and Entertainments Private Limited in Andhra Pradesh spread over 48 acres, shares of various companies, plants and machinery.
“The modus operandi of the scheme of the Agri Gold Group Companies was that they would lure the gullible public to join as depositors in their schemes and encourage them to pay the desired deposits either directly, or through the agents, under the pretext of a real estate deal. These companies did not mention either the actual market value of the land or its location or its boundaries or survey numbers or the permissions required to be obtained for the layouts from the concerned authorities,” the agency stated.
“They tried to colour it as a real estate business, but in reality, it was an unregulated, unlicensed collective investment scheme. The Agri Gold Group of Companies did not obtain permission from RBI to collect such deposits. SEBI has reported that the business of the M/s Agri Gold Farm Estates India Private Limited was nothing but a collective investment scheme and ordered the company to stop taking further deposits and return the money to the depositors. Instead of complying with the directions of the SEBI in letter and spirit, accused Avva Venkata Rama Rao opened new companies and started collecting deposits in the names of new companies on the pretext of real estate business with the help of an army of commission agents, thus, turning this into a ponzi scam,” the ED further said.
Although the accused collected deposits from 32 lakh investors, they never developed lands sufficient to give plots to all the investors, the probe revealed.