20 cops lose Rs 9 crore in shady Ponzi scheme by Versova con family
Kartick Shrivastav and wife Priti
You’d think their experiences with conmen of all sorts would have made them wiser. But 20 Mumbai Police personnel themselves have allegedly fallen for the mother of all Ponzi schemes and duped of Rs 8,95,00,000 in total by a family of four from Versova. The alleged victims range from constables to a deputy commissioner of police and even an additional commissioner of police.
Twenty doctors from the western and northern suburbs of the city, who were similarly duped of Rs 35 crore, blew the lid off the fraud — which promised returns of 180%-400% on investments in 9-14 months — in the last week of August, and filed a complaint with the economic offences wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police. They claimed that over 250 policemen fell for the promises of making a quick buck from 2013-14, and that the total investment fraud runs into several crores of rupees. mid-day has accessed details of investments of 20 such police personnel.
The EOW is investigating the scam. Sources said the con family — Versova residents Mohan Prasad Shrivastav, wife Vibha, son Kartick, daughter-in-law Priti and daughter Archita — as well as Dharmendra Nikumbh, family ‘associate’ and brother of an assistant police inspector, are on the run. All of them have been booked under the relevant sections of the IPC and the Maharashtra Protection of Depositors Interest Act for cheating, criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy and fraudulent default by financial establishments.
Sources alleged that the victim cops, egged on by the police department, kept the scam under the wraps till the doctor came forward to file the complaint, for fear of being questioned about their assets and sources of income.
Returns of 180-400%
According to a 49-year-old Mahim-based doctor’s complaint in the FIR (whose copy is with mid-day), he was introduced to the Shrivastav family in April 2013 by two of his friends and inspectors in Mumbai Police, Bhimrao Wanmane and Arjun Rajane. Mohan allegedly introduced himself to the doctor as a former director of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and deputy general manager of Reserve Bank of India, and his son as the head of investment banking and wealth management with leading European bank UBS in London.
The doctor claimed that the conmen asked him to explore short- and long-term investment opportunities in their multiple family entities — Yottasys Consultancy, Kartick Nutraceutic, Grassroot Software, Narrow Structure, Epitom Capital and KartickAgri Business Pvt Ltd, among others. The family allegedly claimed that the money would be, in turn, invested into reputed companies like Reliance Industries and Tata Industries against bank guarantees and will earn profits of 180%-400% per annum, depending on the tenure of the scheme.
“I found the scheme attractive and invested R3.5 crore in it,” read the complaint.
The doctor claimed that the family’s ostentatious display of wealth made many potential investors for the trick. The Shrivastavs allegedly held meetings only in five-star hotels and arrived in style with their associates in chauffer-driven high-end cars like Bentley, Hummer, BMW and Mercedes. A fleet of armed security guards allegedly accompanied the entourage.
“At meetings, the family showed pictures of their members with politicians, senior bureaucrats, top police officials and film stars. They also furnished photocopies of documents of investments by influential people in their scheme, which ran into thousands of crores of rupees,” said the doctor.
It was allegedly Archita’s job to convince potential clients of the family’s overseas clout; she often bragged about having investors from California, US, pumping in large sums of money in the scheme. Kartick allegedly told potential investors that he had a private aircraft, which he rented out often to a Bollywood actor.
The family claimed to have property in Goregaon, Andheri, Mira Road, Mahad (Raigad district), Noida and Darbhanga (Bihar), that its extended family members held senior bureaucratic positions at the central government.
The doctor claimed that each time he visited the family’s bungalow in Versova, he saw a number of police vehicles lined up outside.
Another complainant, a surgeon from the northern suburbs who owns a hospital and coughed up R5 crore for the scheme, said he, too, was taken in by the family’s “glamorous lives”.
Early prompt returns
The swindlers allegedly were prompt with “lucrative” returns, to ease their victims into a false sense of security. The Mahim doctor was repaid R93.67 lakh. One of the constables who was duped claimed that he got back 80% of his investment. An assistant police inspector said he was repaid R80,000 of his R1-lakh investment. He said most of the police personnel who invested in the scheme were retired. One such retired personnel allegedly pooled in all his life savings and the pension, amounting to Rs 35 lakh in total, in the fraud.
When the family began defaulting on later payments, individual investors began making inquiries of their own — among common associates and the police personnel whom they had seen with the family — and found others who were similarly cheated.
Within months, the doctors then allegedly found that over 250 police personnel had also been swindled.
The complainants alleged that when they began demanding that their investments be refunded, the family sought time to make the repayments and offered to sell its property in Mumbai and outside for it. When the complainants refused to give them time, the family allegedly threatened to set goons from the underworld on them as well as use their alleged influence with senior IPS officers and bureaucrats to wriggle out.
API's bro 'most trusted aide'
Sources said Dharmendra Nikumbh, brother of Police Inspector Jitendra Nikumbh (which station?), was the Shrivastavs’ most trusted aide, and looked after all of their communication and administrative work. Dharmendra allegedly handled the investments of the over 250 policemen and gave them timely returns in the initial stages to win their confidence and get them to rope in more investors from Mumbai Police.
All victims of the Ponzi scheme have formed a WhatsApp group — ‘Victims’ — to interact with each other. The group has 256 members, most of whom are police personnel. The administrator of this group is the same inspector, Arjun Rajane, who had introduced the Mahim doctor to the con family. The inspector has claimed to have lost money in the scheme, too. The second administrator of the group is a senior inspector from north region, who allegedly invested R1 crore in the scheme.
Addl CP: R2.5cr
ACP (retd): R10L
Senior PI: R1cr
Senior PI: R35L
Senior PI: Rs 50L
Senior PI: Rs 15L
Senior PI: Rs 25L
PI: Rs 85L
PI: Rs 30L
PI: Rs 65L
PI: Rs 25L
PI: Rs 22L
PI: Rs 10L
PI: Rs 15L
PI: Rs 15L
API: Rs 80L
PSI: Rs 15L
Constable: Rs 25L
Constable: Rs 8L