Farm owner cons investors with get-rich-quick scheme

Based on a complaint filed by a group of 50 people a fortnight ago, officials of the Mira Road police station booked businessman Ismail Mohammed Khan for duping those who invested in his firm Ghodwadi Farms (GWD). Khan had said the money would be invested in sheep and goat trading business he owned.

Hamid Baqui
Hamid Baqui, one of the investors, displays the advertisement accused Ismail Khan had published in an Urdu paper in November 2011 to lure his victims. Pic/Neha Parekh

The complainants said Khan’s advertisement (November 2011) in an Urdu paper lured them, wherein it was stated that all investors would get a weekly return of Rs 1,000 on a one-time investment of Rs 30,000. The advertisement also stated the company would sponsor an all expenses paid trip to Mecca for Umrah for a lucky few.

They accused Khan of fleeing the city after duping almost 6,000 investors. The complainants said they assumed the number of investors based on the serial number given to them and claimed that the number of people duped could be much higher. Some of the complainants said they spotted Khan on local news channel announcing his Bollywood project Bhagwati, which was worth Rs 50 crore, following which they tried getting in touch with him, but to no avail.

Modus operandi
According to a complaint, Khan was the managing director of his firm GWD and was operating from his office at Asmita Lords Plaza in Naya Nagar in Mira Road. To win investors’ trust, Khan initially paid a few of them the promised amount and even sent seven of the investors on Umrah.

Later, Khan sent a letter to all the investors in November 2012, claiming that the Reserve Bank of India had frozen his bank account after receiving complaints from one of his rivals. He assured the investors that they would get their money in four weeks once the RBI gave its clearance.

In December, Khan again published an advertisement stating that he has received clearance from the RBI and asked the investors to send him the agreement papers they had signed with company. Some of the investors decided to meet Khan at his office when they failed to receive the promised amount. These investors received a rude shock after they found Khan’s office shut. His phone was also switched off.

Hamid Abdul Baqui, one of the investors, said, “I invested Rs 60,000 in the scheme and received Rs 1,000 for the next 12 weeks.” Baqui said he was one of the many who saw Khan announcing his film on a news channel on November 17, at a press conference in Bengaluru.

Realising that they had been duped, some of the investors lodged complaints against Khan at Mira Road police station. Baqui said during the press conference Khan announced that the budget of the film would be Rs 50 crore and would star either Vidya Balan or Rani Mukherjee.

He even told mediapersons that famous South director Venugopal, of E Bhumi Aa Bhanu fame, and Nana Bhai would be directing the film. While ace cameraman from Kannada film industry, P Rajan, would head the camera department.

Sub Inspector Aslam Khatib of Mira Road police station said, “We have received complaints and our investigation is going on. We have recorded statements of more that 50 investors so far.”¬†Khatib added that a team of officials visited Bengaluru to arrest Khan, but he remained untraceable. He also revealed that the cellphone number Khan had given to his investors was acquired providing fake documents. Khan said, “All the airports in the country have been alerted.”

About GWD
Headed by Ismail Khan, GWD claimed to have branches in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The firm is involved in 18 different businesses, including sheep farming/ breeding, goat farming/ breeding and buffalo farming/ breeding. The firm also offers qurbani schemes on Eid and sells goats on installments.

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