Pune: The Economic Offences Wing today said close to 20,000 prospective buyers seem to have registered in Maple Group's controversial project which promised one-bedroom flats for Rs 5 lakh, a day after a case of cheating was registered against senior executives of the firm even as the Group today expressed "regret" over the "confusion".
The advertisements published recently triggered a major controversy as they gave the impression that the low cost housing scheme, promising flats at cheaper rates on outskirts of the city, of the builder firm was a part of the 'Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana'.
The advertisement published by Pune-based Maple Shelters on April 14 announcing the launch of the project
The developers carried pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Pune Guardian Minister Girish Bapat in newspaper advertisements.
"Prima-facie, approximately 20,000 prospective buyers have registered in the housing project and around Rs 6 lakh were found deposited in one of the accounts of Maple Group, which could have been deposited through online payments by people," said Deepak Sakore, Deputy Commissioner of Police (EOW), who is monitoring the probe.
Police today froze Maple Group's bank account prohibiting officials of the builder firm from carrying out any transactions. The case of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Maple Group's CMD Sachin Agarwal, MD Naven Agarwal, Sales Manager Priyanka Agarwal and other office staff lodged by police yesterday has been transferred to EOW.
Breaking its silence on the issue for the first time, Maple Group today said they have already started refunding money collected from prospective buyers and also expressed "regret" over the confusion regarding 'Maharashtra Housing Day' advertisements.
"We express sincere and deepest apologies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Guardian Minister of Pune Girish Bapat and applicants for any harm/inconvenience caused to them due the wrong perception caused by the advertisement and if there are some inadvertent mistakes, we are willing to take necessary corrective action," the company stated in the release.
It clarified that the advertisement was an initiative of Maple Shelters in terms of branding and not a government scheme. EOW, which is scrutinising documents, has appealed to people, who have registered with the housing project by believing in "misleading" advertisements, to come forward and lodge their grievances with the agency.
To a query when the accused persons will be arrested, Sakore said notices have been issued to them to be present for inquiry.
Interestingly, a controversy erupted when Sachin Agarwal was spotted at a function attended by guardian minister Girish Bapat here yesterday, but allegedly evaded the police by fleeing on a scooter. Bapat later clarified that he was not aware of the presence of Agarwal at the event.