INDIA: Three people, including a lawyer, were arrested last week on charges of selling the attached property of the Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited (PACL), based on fake documents in southern Bengaluru in Karnataka state.
The names of the arrested were given as Manjunath, a lawyer, and real-estate agents Chandramohan and Prithvin. They have been booked under the Indian Penal Code section 420 (cheating) and the Prevention of Corruption 1988 by the Hebbagodi police and remanded to police custody.
The accused illegally sold the 12.30-acre land parcel in “M Medahalli”, located in Anekal taluka, in Bengaluru district, with fake documents. The gang involved in this clandestine deal included the arrested accused, a sub-registrar, the brother of a police inspector, and others, official sources said.
As a sequel to the arrest of the three accused, the police searched the house of Praveen (the police inspector’s brother) at Basavanapura. The searches were also carried out at the residences and offices of other suspects in Nagashettihalli and Vijinapura.
In addition, separate teams headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police (Anekal subdivision) Lakshmi Narayan also searched six places belonging to the absconding suspects in the hope of finding documents related to the illegal land sale.
Over a dozen land parcels located in Bengaluru (Urban) North and Devanhalli in Bengaluru (rural) belonging to PACL have been listed for auction sale by the Justice R M Lodha Committee (set up by the SEBI as per the Supreme Court’s direction on February 02, 2016) to sell and recover duped investors’ money.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had notified the public that a fake authority letter (Ref. No. JRMLC/PACL/3442/2022 dated June 16) in the name of R M Lodha Committee/SEBI, authorising one Harvinder Singh Bhangoo (Voter ID No. TJU9584804) to sell the PACL properties in Karnataka was in circulation. The SEBI has clarified that the Committee has not authorised any individual/entity to sell or dispose of the properties of PACL Ltd, cautioning the public at large.
The Lodha Committee is entrusted with the task of selling PACL’s 27,138 properties spread across India to refund the money to over 5.50 crore investors duped through an illegal collective investment scheme by Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and 16 others. One of the accused, Kanwaljit Toor, died in custody in January this year. The PACL offered the land at a cheaper rate to investors, although the company did not possess even an inch.
Till now, the committee has been able to refund Rs.831.78 crore to 18.43 lakh investors. The refundable amount, which was in the region of Rs. 49,100 crores earlier, has now swelled up to Rs. 60,000 crores with accumulated interest.
Despite a ban on the sale of properties (except through auction by the Lodha Committee), the reports of the properties being sold clandestinely by the people connected with prime accused Nirmal Singh Bhangoo continue to surface. One such property, located at Juhu in North West Mumbai, was sold to a third party early this year.
The boards declaring the attachment of the property are not displayed at the site, and no public notice is given. Some of the other properties located in Maharashtra have also been sold clandestinely, Vishal Mhetre, Secretary of the Janhit Association, said.
PACL was incorporated on February 13, 1996, in Jaipur (Rajasthan). After the scam surfaced, the SEBI asked PACL to wind up its collective investment scheme with an order dated August 22, 2014. After the action by the CBI and other agencies, SEBI attached PACL’s properties in 2015.
Bail for Subrata Bhattacharya
In another development, in view of the bail application (in Civil appeal No 13301/2015) submitted by one of the arrested accused, Subrata Bhattacharya, a division bench of the SC comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli, has called for the affidavits from the states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, and Karnataka indicating the status of the criminal proceedings against Bhattacharya in their respective states.
The affidavits should reach the SC by September 30. The application for a grant of bail will be considered thereafter on the next date of listing. The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate have also been permitted to file additional affidavits, the bench’s order dated September 16 read.