INDIA. Mumbai: The raids were conducted by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) recently at various locations of M/s Vihaan Direct Selling India Private Limited (Vihaan), the master franchisee company of M/s Qnet Ltd, in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai, on charges of money laundering.
The search operations on January 17 were carried out at five locations in Mumbai, two in Bengaluru, and two in Chennai. During the searches, various incriminating documents and digital devices were seized. Further, 36 bank accounts totaling more than Rs. 90 crore relating to multiple companies connected with the case were frozen, an official note read. Vihaan is based in Bengaluru.
Although, as per the FIR registered by the EOW of Mumbai Police, the total estimated proceeds of crime are about Rs. 400 crores, during the investigation, ED observed that over Rs. 2000 crore were routed by way of opening various shell companies by Vihaan.
In 2014, ED had registered an FIR under the Money Laundering Act (PMLA) estimating a Rs 425 crore scam and had named QNet Ltd, its official franchisee Vihaan, Vijay Eswaran, the founder of the QNet group, and three other independent representatives from Mumbai. ED initiated a money laundering investigation based on an FIR registered by EOW earlier.
In the same year, the EOW, opposing bail applications for seven in the QNet scam, told the Bombay Sessions Court that the accused-including former world billiards champion Michael Ferriera, Srinivas Rao Vanka, Magarlal Viravali Balaji, Malcolm Nozer Desai, Navjyot Mahesh Das, Chinar Surendra Shinde, and Mereilla Kamal Dutta, misled the court by submitting a fake document. Besides, the police officer under whose name the document was submitted denied having prepared any such document.
On May 6, 2016, the Bombay High Court, while rejecting the anticipatory bail applications of the five accused, observed that the deceit and fraud were camouflaged under e-marketing and business.
The bail applications of five, including Srinivas Rao Vanka and Magaral Veervalli Balaji, both directors of Vihaan, Suresh Thimiri, director of Transview Enterprises India Pvt Ltd, Malcolm Nozer Desai (who is a 20% stakeholder in Vihaan); and Michael Ferreira (aan 80% stakeholder in Vihaan), were rejected by the court. Although he owned the “QNet” trademark in India through Transview Enterprises Pvt. Ltd., Thimiri denied any relationship with QNet.
In August 2019, the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) and the department of consumer affairs under the Union ministry of consumer affairs initiated the filing of a winding-up petition against Vihaan and issued lookout circulars (LOCs) against 12 persons, including Guhan Ramachandran, MN Gunasheela, Subha Thulasiram, Vanka Srinivasa Rao, Balaji Magaral Veeravalli, Premdas Ramunni Kurup, Kantha Vijaya Sarathi, Muhammad Imthiaaz, Malcolm Nozer, and Michael Ferreira.
Subsequently, the registrar of companies (RoC), Karnataka, after inspecting the books of Vihaan, revealed the company’s fraudulent activities to dupe investors and filed a winding-up petition against the company under Section 271 of the Companies Act before the national company law tribunal (NCLT) ‘s Bengaluru bench.
It was revealed that Vihaan had floated various shell companies and dummy proprietorships for the purpose of routing the funds received from many investors. Besides, the company duped gullible investors into investing their hard-earned money in Ponzi schemes, assuring them of quick and heavy returns.
Also Read: CBI Conduct Raids at 12 Locations in Connection with Bank Frauds