Mumbai: Gang of Sci-Fi conmen busted

Mumbai: The city crime branch has busted a 'rice-pulling' gang, who tricked businessmen out of crores of rupees by asking them to invest in a science project.

The fraudsters wove a web of deceit, promising thousands of crores of rupees in profit to those investing in their scheme.

The mastermind of the scheme, Vikas Singh, 49, and his accomplice Kalim Shaikh, 38, 'established' two companies, Franklin Power Material Handling Centre and Supremo International Center.

The gang would claim they had a one-inch thick disc of copper-iridium, which could fetch investors a thousand crore rupees if their project were to succeed.

Further, they claimed, this alloy was used by Indian Space Research Organisation, Defence Research and Development Organisation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in their space missions.

From a distance of one inch, if the disc could pull grains of rice, investors could get Rs 6,000-7,000 crore and if this distance was increased, their profits too would multiply, the gang claimed.

The fraudsters would approach people claiming they had the alloy but needed funds for their rice-pulling experiment to succeed. They brought potential 'buyers' to convince the investor that there would be guaranteed abundant returns once the experiment succeeded.

Once the gang had successfully lured an investor, they would leave no stone unturned to fool him. Once they received the investment, they would arrange a 'real-time experiment' -- first, they would give the investor a VIP ID card which mentioned the visitor was about to enter a radioactive zone.

For such visits, they had rented a bungalow, in Malad West, but usually, they preferred secluded spots to demonstrate their 'experiment', the police said.

During the experiment, Biplab Dey, 40, would play the scientist, while two others, Sajid Shaikh, 48, and Shivaji Tiwari, 32, were his assistants. Dey wore a 'special suit' while conducting the experiment.

The 'laboratory' would be dark and during the demonstration bulbs would pop up and Dey would claim that the radiation from the copper-iridium disc was increasing and so he would have to stop the experiment.

There would be an odour in the room, caused by the spraying of chemicals to convince the visitor that some reaction was taking place. A radiation-measuring device was also used during the experiment.

According to a crime branch official, there is a magnet concealed inside the copper-iridium disc and the rice grains used in the experiment had iron filings in them, which made it seem as though they were being 'pulled' by the disc.

"Obviously, the gang was duping the investors. Their trickery knew no end as long as the investor kept giving them money for the 'experiment'. If they felt the investor was getting suspicious, they would disappear and move on to the next victim. In this manner, they cheated several people in Maharashtra and other states," said DCP (crime) Akbar Pathan

A businessman from Navi Mumbai had invested Rs 1.35 crore in the project and during investigation, the crime branch came across the names of 11 more people who are said to have invested Rs 63 lakh.

The gang had created a website and they had also forged a letterhead of the DRDO. The crime branch arrested the gang under the sections for cheating and forgery and conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.

Reportedly, such gangs are active in the south, with conmen making people put their faith and money into an ancient artefact with 'astounding magical properties', which would help them get rich quickly.

By Sachin Gaad

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