My plans failed: Car rental scamster to Mumbai police

Updated: Mar 13, 2019, 16:17 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

After exclusive mid-day report, mastermind of multi-crore Ponzi scheme who duped hundreds surrenders in court; cops seek help of EOW of Crime Branch

Duped investors outside the court
Duped investors outside the court

It was high drama at a Vikhroli court last morning, as Maniesh Sethi, the mastermind of a multi-crore rent-a-car con surrendered after duping nearly 600 people. One of his defrauded clients spotted Sethi in court and informed the others. In no time, angry victims gathered at the court, but the police didn't let anyone in, and beefed up security while taking him back to lock-up, to avoid any trouble.

"My plans failed," Maniesh Sethi told the Vikhroli police soon after the Metropolitan Magistrate Court remanded him to police custody until March 16. But Sethi had no response when an officer said, "If you have hundreds of cars lying in the parking lot and if they do not ply on roads, the plan is bound to fail."

Maniesh Sethi, who surrendered a little after 11 am yesterday
Maniesh Sethi, who surrendered a little after 11 am yesterday

According to sources, the accused was taken to Senior Inspector Sanjay Joshi's cabin at Vikhroli police station, where the investigating officer and team carried out the preliminary inquiry. Speaking to mid-day, Joshi said, "We are in the process of collecting all the documents and recording statements. Preliminary inquiries have revealed that Sethi was running a sole proprietorship company [M/s Sainergy Cabs 9] and we are also seeking assistance from the Economic Offence Wing."

He added, "We have his custody until March 16 and will carry out an in-depth inquiry. We will also be carrying out a search at his office and residence and collect required evidence, which will help us learn the quantum of fraud and the actual number of investors who have been duped in the case so far."

Maniesh Sethi
Maniesh Sethi

No get out jail card
When asked if the police would add any more Sections in the case, Joshi replied, "We have already made a case under Sections 406, 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating). All other relevant sections will be looked into as and when the investigation progresses. Also, he won't get bail soon in this case."

However, he admitted that the accused could seek bail on the grounds that he had turned himself in. Sethi arrived around 11 am to surrender himself, and his remand hearing came up at 3 pm, after which he was escorted to lock-up with a hefty police escort. DCP Akhilesh Singh said, "We are probing the case from all possible angles, including those who had aided and abetted in the crime.

We have so far recorded over 85 investors' statements, and are anticipating the number to cross 250, at least. We will also verify if the accused had any previous cases registered at any other police station across India." DCP Singh also appealed to other investors to come forward and register their complaint against the accused.

Over 100 cars still parked
Investors now hope that the cars parked in the Chandivli parking lot will released soon. The cars have remained stuck there after Sethi failed to pay the parking charges and fines. Deepak Kamble, who had invested in two cars, said, "One of my cars is still stuck and I hope the police tell the parking agent to recover payment from Sethi rather than the investors, who are already bankrupt."

Rakesh Tak, who runs the parking on behalf of the BMC, said, "We have parked all the brand new cars on the top level, which has been now sealed by the police. We had allowed over hundred cars and per day charges as per BMC norms is Rs 4,500 with GST per vehicle if the car remains in parking for 24 hours. Here, there are over 100 cars parked since August 2018."

Tak added, "The company owed me Rs 33 lakh, and their cheques bounced not once, but thrice. I have informed the legal department and they have already issued notice to the company." The matter of return of property will be heard in court on March 14, said Tak, adding that four investors had paid Rs 25,000 each and their vehicles would be released."

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