Mumbai: CM Devendra Fadnavis' picture with Ponzi scam mastermind on bail alarms duped investors

Updated: 14 February, 2018 13:19 IST | Samiullah Khan | Mumbai

Ponzi scam mastermind on bail shares stage with Fadnavis; those cheated worried he may use CM's face for what they believe is his next scam

Zahir Rana (left) and CM Devendra Fadnavis unveil his latest scheme - True Talent Sports Pvt Ltd
Zahir Rana (left) and CM Devendra Fadnavis unveil his latest scheme - True Talent Sports Pvt Ltd

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis sure seems to be keeping strange company of late. The CM set tongues wagging recently by tweeting pictures of him sharing the stage with Zahir Rana, a notorious Ponzi scheme operator who duped people of hundreds of crores in a series of scams. Fadnavis even unveiled the offer document of Rana's latest venture, a cricket talent hunt programme, which, past victims of the fraudster said, is likely yet another con.

On Sunday, citizens were shocked when Fadnavis tweeted several pictures of him unveiling Zahir Rana's new project at a BJP medical camp in Malwani. Rana claims his latest offering is not a Ponzi scheme, but a genuine proposal for the country's first ever cricket talent hunt and reality show. His past victims warn, however, that he might just be playing everybody, including the CM. Rana told mid-day, "I don't want to discuss my past. I served jail time in one of the cases. I wish to start a new life and have no intention to cheat anyone."

Bad strike rate
Rana has been accused of multi-crore scams not once, but thrice. He even served five years in jail for his very first scam — Remo Marketing, his multi-level marketing company. Rana allegedly cost investors R800 crore after the Remo racket went bust in 2003. The scam came to light after a cheque issued by him bounced, and he was surrounded by investors who wanted their money back.

Fadnavis tweeted pictures of him and Zahir Rana on Sunday

Rana was put behind bars till 2008, but when he came out, he floated yet another scheme — Dorado, yet another multi-level marketing programme promising 15 to 20 per cent returns. This time, he held a press conference, claiming that he had changed his ways and that Dorado was a genuine investment. Yet again, investors lost their money, and many complained to the police. By this time, Rana had already spun his third scheme — selling land plots. Predictably, once again, an investor complained that he had paid money but was never allotted any land. He had allegedly duped investors of around R70 crore by this time.

New game plan
After a complaint was lodged at Navrangpura police station in Ahmedabad, Rana went into hiding. In May 2012, the police found and arrested him. After a few days in jail, he secured bail and moved to Mumbai. Ever since then, he has been plotting new ways to score money and fame, eventually landing on his latest game plan — a cricketing reality talent hunt, titled True Premier League.

Also read - Mumbai: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis' guest turns out to be a molester

"This is not a scheme, it is a cricket talent hunt that I wanted to bring to television as a reality show. My prime motto is to hunt for upcoming cricketers at the district and taluka-level, across the state. Eventually, I want to create a dream team across the nation. National and international players are also associated with us, and they will help us to pick up the best cricketers. We have not charged the cricketers any money; it is free of charge, so it cannot be called a scheme," said Rana.

He added, "True Premier League is India's first-ever cricket talent hunt and reality show. Our aim is to unearth young cricketing talents across all major states in India. We will offer a platform to aspiring cricketers, and it will be telecast live on True Sports Channel. During matches, viewers can vote for their favourite players, and the winners will be rewarded with prize money and awards."

Rs 870cr
Approximate amount he duped investors of

No. of scams Rana has been accused of

No. of years he was in jail for his first scam

Baba Bodke, Devendra Fadnavis

Not the first time
CM Devendra Fadnavis had also courted controversy when he was photographed with gangster Kamlakar Kisan alias Baba Bodke in 2016. The Pune-based criminal was charged in multiple cases, including four murders. At the time, the CM’s office had claimed that he did not know Bodke, and the criminal had been invited by someone else.

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First Published: 14 February, 2018 08:25 IST

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