All that glitters is not gold is the lesson which members of the koli community from Maulgaon in Chembur will remember.
Taking advantage of the community’s fascination for gold, a jeweller duped a few of them of seven kilograms of gold worth Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 45 lakh in cash. But the officials believe that money made by the conman could be much more than the amount mentioned on record.
Officials of the RCF Colony police station said Uttam Malla, who is believed to be in mid-30s, would make ornaments and help fishermen invest in various gold schemes since 2008. Complainants said he won the trust of almost each and everyone residing in the area by paying returns on time.
“We were unaware of his activities until yesterday when someone brought along an official from Kurla police station to recover his dues from Malla. Soon the word spread and we learnt that he had fled the area with his family. This is when we decided to unite and lodge a complaint against Malla,” said one of the fishermen.
The man who brought the policeman with him, Kamal Mandal, an ornament-maker from Kurla, said, “We are contractual labourers and had made several ornaments for Malla. He owed us payment for 25 tolas (250 g) of gold.”
Kamlakar Koli, who was swindled of eight tolas of gold, said, “Malla took my ornaments on the pretext of showing the designs to his new clients. Since I knew him for the last couple of years and had purchased jewellery from him, there was no question of doubting his intentions.”
Like Koli, even Narayan Maulkar entrusted Malla with 25 tolas of gold and lost it.
“I got my ornaments from him. But since there was a minor defect, I gave them back for rectification. Yesterday I came to know that he and his family have fled the city,” Maulkar said.
Fisherman Suresh Borana who gave Malla cash to invest in various gold schemes said the accused took Rs 5 lakh in instalments from him in the last one year. “I have lost the entire amount. We want the police to arrest him as soon as possible.”
Senior Inspector Dilip Yadav of the RCF Colony police station said, “On record, seven kilograms of gold and Rs 45 lakh in cash were embezzeld. About 90 people have approached us against the accused so far.”
“We feel that once the investigation proceeds, the amount swindled by the accused will go up drastically. Initially, he paid returns regularly to the victims, and had been collecting cash and gold from the fishermen. Since the victims trusted him, they never asked for any kind of receipt,” the cop said.
Malla was booked under sections 420 (cheating) and 406 (breach of Trust) of the Indian Penal Code. The police have launched a manhunt to trace him.