INDIA. Mumbai: On Saturday, Haryana arrested Anil Chowdhary (45), the absconding director of the defunct Pearls Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL), who is accused of defrauding investors. He was brought to Bilaspur (Chhatisgarh) and put in judicial custody.
Chowdhary was apprehended in Bhiwani city’s sector 13, Housing Board, in response to petitions filed with the Bilaspur Collector by over 5252 defrauded investors requesting assistance in recovering funds lost in a phoney money-doubling scheme.
Teams were created to track down the perpetrator under the command of Bilaspur DIG Parul Mathur. They’ve been camping for days across Haryana, Delhi, and Punjab.
Finally, on Saturday, the culprit was apprehended. The defendants have been charged in 20 FIRs across 11 districts in Chhatisgarh. Now his assets are being inventoried to notify the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and his properties are auctioned.
Subrata Bhattacharya’s arrest
In another incident, PACL Director Subrata Bhattacharya was arrested and taken to Kawardha (in the Kabirdham region of Chhatisgarh) on a transit remand in connection with the investment scandal from Tihar Jail in Delhi.
In 2015, Bhattacharya received a large sum of money in the name of PACL, despite the fact that the scheme had previously been closed down by the SEBI. Sukhdev Singh, the MD and Promoter-Director of PACL, was detained in Roop Nagar (Punjab) a few months ago.
“Two FIRS were registered against Bhattacharya in 2015 and 2017 at Kawardha and Kunda police stations, respectively,” Additional Superintendent of Police Manisha Thakur Rawate told media.
PACL raised money from approximately 1500 investors in Kawardha by proposing money-doubling plans. However, the money was not repaid when the deposits “matured.” Following that, SEBI closed down PACL, and the Supreme Court (SC) established the R M Lodha Committee to sell the PACL’s properties and refund the investors’ money.
Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, CMD of Pearls Golden Forest Ltd (PGFL) and ex-chairman of Pearls Australasia Pty Limited, Sukhdev Singh, MD and Promoter-Director of PACL, Gurmeet Singh, Executive Director (Finance), and Subrata Bhattacharya, Executive Director of PGFL/PACL have all been arrested by the CBI so far.
Arrested PACL Executives include Chander Bhushan Dhillon, Prem Seth, Manmohan Kamal Mahajan, Mohanlal Sehajpal, Kanwaljit Singh Toor, Businessmen Praveen Kumar Agarwal, Manoj Kumar Jain, Akash Agarwal, Anil Kumar Khemka Subhash Agarwal, and Rajesh Agarwal.
Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, his wife, Prem Kaur; daughters Sukhwinder Kaur and Barinder Kaur, and their husbands Gurpartap Singh and Harsatinder Singh are also accused of the scam.
PACL defrauded six crore investors in India to the tune of Rs. 49,100 crore by guaranteeing them land at a lower price, despite the fact that company did not own a single inch.
With interest and additional fees, the principal recoverable amount has risen to Rs 55,000 crore. In addition, Bhangoo is to be reimbursed for Rs 5000 crore obtained in the name of Pearls Golden Forest Ltd (PGFL).
The SEBI, which has ordered all banks to seize Bhangoo’s bank accounts and vaults, has put up for sale the PACL’s property worth Rs 27,000 crore, which is distributed across the country. However, in comparison to demand, the SEBI has only collected a little amount.
According to Vishal Mhetre, Secretary of the Janhit Association, spearheading the cause of the duped investors, the arrest of one more director is welcome.
But the R M Lodha Committee’s process of auctioning the attached properties is prolonged. Despite the notifications by revenue authorities, the respective collectors remain lenient, and no notices are about the attachment of properties in local newspapers.
PACL was incorporated on February 13, 1996, in Jaipur (Rajasthan); SEBI directed PACL to wind up on August 22, 2014, CBI arrested four PACL officials, on December 11, 2016, Enforcement Directorate filed a charge sheet against PACL in September 2018 and attached its assets in Australia, SEBI filed a claim petition in the Federal Court of Australia (FCA) to recover the money stashed away by the PACL using several shell entities in Australia,
On January 22, 2015, the Supreme Court appointed the Justice (retired) R. M. Lodha Committee to sell PACL’s assets and refund investors’ money.
Following that, the Justice (Retired) Vikramjit Sen committee was constituted to oversee the PGFL investors’ money being refunded.
The promoters of PACL were ordered by the Federal Court of Australia to deposit US $79 million (Rs 427 crore) in the R. M. Lodha Committee’s account in Australia by June 2020. SEBI announced in September 2020 that over Rs 429 crore had been paid to over 12 lakh PACL investors with claims of up to Rs 10,000.
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