The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday said that it has attached assets worth ₹209 crore, including 20 immovable properties and bank deposits, in its money laundering probe into the alleged IMA group ponzi scam of Karnataka.
Thousands of depositors are said to have been duped in the alleged scam. The central agency said that its Bengaluru zonal office has issued a provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for attachment of immovable assets worth ₹197 crore and about ₹12 crore deposits in bank accounts.
The ED had recently filed a criminal case of money laundering against the IMA group of companies and its absconding main promoter and managing director Mohammed Mansoor Khan after reports emerged that he has gone underground fearing investments worth crores of about 40,000 investors have tanked.
While ₹98 lakh was found deposited in 51 bank accounts, ₹11 crore was kept in a HDFC bank account, operational under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY), the ED said. The PMGKY was announced by the Modi government, post demonetization in 2016, as part of a one-time compliance window for people holding black money to come clean by paying tax and penalty of 50 per cent. The government had said that such declarations will be kept confidential.
The ED said that Khan had deposited cash of about ₹44 crore in various bank accounts during the demonetization period and as a result of Income Tax Department action against the IMA group, he and the IMA group had paid a tax of Rs 22 crore. “The remaining amount of ₹11 crore was lying in a bank which has been identified during the investigation,” it said.
In a statement, the agency said that the value of the 20 immovable properties attached as per the latest order is about ₹197 crore and their worth has been obtained by approved government valuers. This way, the total amount of the attachment is about ₹209 crore.
The immovable assets which have been frozen include those located in Jayanagar, Alexanderia Street, Frazer Town, Serpentine Street, Tasker Town, Pottery Town, HBR Layout, Benson Town, Davis Road, Richards Town, St Johns Church Road, Maruthi Sevanagar, and Bannerghatta in Bengaluru. Two properties at Lady Curzon Road, five acres of land and a plot in Davangere, two properties in Hassan, and one asset in Chikkaballapur have also been frozen.
The ED said it has deployed a “dedicated” team of investigators to probe the case and that Khan had received about ₹4,000 crore as investments from the gullible investors. “The accused companies and its directors have indulged in the offence of money laundering by cheating common people through ponzi schemes and generated the proceeds of crime in the form of movable and immovable properties”, it said.
Probe revealed that the IMA group was “not doing any business to pay the promised monthly return on the investments made by public and Khan was running a ponzi scheme and they (group employees and directors) were all working on the instructions of Khan”, the ED alleged. Khan, it said, had promised returns ranging from 2.5 to 3 per cent month to the investors, who are mainly from the Muslim community.
The scam had come to light after a video of his purported statement claiming that the investments have been lost, surfaced early this month. The ED has summoned Khan multiple times for questioning but he did not depose before the agency and it is suspected that he has left the country.
The agency is working towards getting an Interpol arrest warrant issued against him and get him declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ by a court, it said. The Karnataka government has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) of the police to probe the case which has already arrested seven directors of the group.