With QNet in the police net, duped victims speak out
With the Economic Offences Wing raiding the company's offices in Bangalore and Chennai, detaining 5 officials and arresting 1 last month, MiD DAY unravels the money-laundering scam in the guise of a marketing firm
The controversial Hong Kong-based multi-level marketing (MLM) company QNet India has been accused of cheating investors across the globe. The company has been allegedly using the name of Mahatma Gandhi to woo investors and has embezzled from lakhs of unsuspecting investors since its inception.
Last month, Bandra-based Manjunath Hegde (52) was arrested for cheating people on the pretext of making them investors in the company. The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai police also raided the QNet offices in Bangalore and Chennai, and detained five of its officials. Since then, matters have gone steadily downhill for the firm.
The company was hit by controversy first when the Iranian government banned GoldQuest, in what was one of the largest economic corruption cases in the country's history. The government found that the GoldQuest pyramid schemes led to the removal of around 500 million USD from the country.
Not just Iran, QNet was banned by the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Rwanda, Turkey, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Banned in India twice, QNet is believed to have cheated more than 50 lakh investors in Malaysia, Egypt and Philippines.
On April 29, 2013, MiD DAY had published a report on one of the many victims - Parmeet Kaur Anand, who runs two dhabas in Adarsh Nagar, Andheri (West), had complained to the Commissioner of Police, Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and Cyber Crime Cell (CCC) alleging that the QNet employees ‘hypnotised’ her into becoming a member of the firm and threatened her with dire consequences when she did not pay the membership fee of Rs 30,000.
Two employees of QNet India, Mercilla Dutta and Navjyot, often visited her eateries for meals. They introduced themselves as representatives of the online firm and encouraged her to join their company and benefit from it. They also showed her a product called ‘bio-disc’, claiming it had healing properties and could transform the molecular structure of water, which helped in curing terminal diseases like cancer, diabetes and brain-related diseases.
Parmeet fell for the trap as her elder son Gurman (12) was suffering from multiple health problems. The duo succeeded in getting a cheque of Rs 31,500 from her as membership fee. They asked her not to speak of her involvement with any of her relatives.
Parmeet’s husband Gurupreet Singh Anand, a computer consultant, was following the case. After investigation on August 16, EOW registered an FIR in Oshiwara police station under sections 420, 120 (B) of IPC and with sections 3, 5, 6, PCMC Act of 1978 against QNet India, and directors of Vihaan Direct Selling (India) Private Limited Navjyot, Mercilla Dutta and Dato Vijay Eswaran, who is also global managing director of the company.
After arresting five officials from Bangalore and Chennai, cops interrogated them over five days. They were then released and soon obtained anticipatory bail. “The company has been banned twice in India and also banned in foreign countries. The company was operating with multiple names like GoldQuest, QuestNet, QNet, QI Ltd and QI group. This is the same company that duped thousands of investors in India by selling them ordinary coins but telling them they had antique value,” said an officer from EOW.
Cheating in the name of gandhi
QNet has allegedly been using the name of Mahatma Gandhi to make its business more popular. The company’s management has allegedly cheated more than 50 lakh investors across the world, using Gandhi’s name as ‘corporate icon’ to woo investors.
“QNet is an anti-national firm, cheating investors using Mahatma Gandhi’s name. The company is using Bapu’s name to promote illegal business of product-based money circulation scheme. I have complained to the police to take action against Eswaran,” said Gurupreet Singh Anand, husband of Parmeet Kaur.
According to the police, QNet organises international seminars called V-con every year at various places around the world. Here, agents are trained on how to woo customers and grow the business.
In 2011, the company’s director Vijay Eswaran, who is presently ‘wanted’ in Chennai police records, held a meeting at Malaysia. More than 1,000 representatives from across the globe attended it. In that meeting, Eswaran announced that Mahatma Gandhi would be QNet’s ‘corporate icon’. Eswaran also urged the representatives to use Gandhi’s name while addressing any meeting attended by investors.
“I have just received the complaint. We will take action if the claims are found to be true,” said an officer from Oshiwara police station.
Eswaran was selling gold coins through QuestNet and GoldQuest.
The firms claimed that they were coins whose value would increase over time. In 2009, the company was forced to shut shop. Eswaran then floated QNet.
QNet offers investors lifestyle enhancing products, holiday packages, diamond watches, bio-discs, Chi-Pendants and herbal products for anything between Rs 30,000 to Rs 7 lakh, with the promise that they will yield fabulously high returns. QNet promised agents that a diamond star could help them earn upto Rs 27.7 lakh per week. A platinum star can help them earn Rs 22.4 lakh a week.
The company has powerful political connections. GoldQuest officials have also claimed that Nalini Chidambaram, wife of P Chidambaram, is a legal advisor of his company. Officials highlight this connection during its meetings to recruit of new agents.
Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan was a product ambassador for QNet globally from May 2011 to May 2013. Former world billiards champion Michael Ferreira was also attached to the company. Interestingly, last year QNet organised a tour for journalists to Hong Kong, to illustrate that the company was not running a ‘scam’.
‘I WAS THREATENED, CHEATED, LOOTED’
Abhishek Sahay, a Chartered Accountant from Gurgaon has complained to local cops as well as Mumbai police. According to Sahay, on August, 31, 2013, an agent of QNet called him to a local coffee shop. Here he was surrounded by four other people, who tried to convince him to enter into a business by paying a capital sum of Rs 4.05 lakh. Sahay claims that he was hypnotised at this point, and lost his ability to speak. He spent four hours seated there, and could only move when they asked him to leave.
“I am a CA. I think that if they can cheat me using hypnotism and emotional tricks, they can or are doing the same to other innocent people. I cannot forget the trauma, the veiled threats and stress I had to suffer,” said Sahay.
On August 1 around 1 am, he was taken to a QNet member’s house. There he was asked to write out a cheque of Rs 2.61 lakh. Sahay paid through a credit card. A little while later, when Sahay tried to backtrack, the members started threatening him.
According to Sahay, the entire business is a money circulation scam. “The goods that are sold are fake and purely a cover for money laundering. Our hard earned money is going out of the country and innocent people are being targeted. There are so many victims in Delhi and NCR regions but have not filed cases as their relatives would also get arrested.”
– ABHISHEK SAHAY, CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT
‘THIS COMPANY HAS DESTROYED MY FAMILY LIFE’
My wife (a Thai national) was a senior operative of QNet for two years. The company has destroyed my family life, the future of my three bright children and all that I made through my hard labour.
In April 2012, she took our three children to Thailand for summer vacations. She came back in May but left the children in Thailand, and forced me to see a senior operative of QNet using a fake identity and profession. I did not know he was a QNet operative at that time. When I refused to see him she said that she would not bring back the children if I did not see him.
The very next day, I was taken to a one-bedroom flat in Bandra to meet this individual, who I later came to know was the QNet kingpin. He first introduced himself as a ‘doctor’ and then as a “hypnotist”. He started to talk about hypnotism, past lives, and ‘souls’. I pleaded with my wife to stay away from him.
One day, my wife announced that she was going to Thailand to fetch the children. She took her own sweet time to return. Meanwhile, this QNet operative too went to Thailand and according to my contacts, collected money from her friends and relatives for QNet operations with my wife’s assistance.
On returning to India, she started talking about ‘connecting with the spirit world’, ‘past life regression’ and ‘how souls meet’. She spent most of her time on the phone and left home at odd hours and came back home at odd hours. She started to stay out on Saturdays and Sundays. She started to lock cupboards and refused me any access to our property documents or valuables. Large cash withdrawals also happened from our accounts during this period.
She attempted to kidnap my three children from school and fly out of India. She had taken care to pack all property papers, original documents including my passport lest I should pursue her and foil her secret designs. I reported the matter to the police station and she was stopped from flying out in the nick of time.
QNet first lured her into their web using hypnotists -- one of their Mumbai kingpins who is now under arrest is a hypnotist and a QNet distributor proudly declares him to be a ‘master of the mind.’ She also started to withdraw large cash amounts from our accounts. Under the guidance of these people she attempted to control our assets by taking away original documents and sharing with outsiders, fraudulently inserting the name of her brother as a director in our companies and removing me. Our children have been torn apart and their bright future ruined. Our properties are being used to run QNet businesses, solicitations and meetings.
– An Ulhasnagar resident whose wife is a QNet operative
The Other Side
“QNet’s founders are profoundly inspired by the life and work of Gandhi, a great leader, humanitarian and activist. The teachings of Gandhi laid to the foundation for RYTHM - Raise Yourself to Help Mankind, which is the driving principle of QNet. Empowering others to succeed in order to be successful lies at the core of our business. We are aware that EOW of Mumbai police have registered an FIR against our company. We are co-operating with the authorities. The company does not have multiple names. The company has never been convicted in any case involving fraud previously or banned from operating in India. QNet’s founders are profoundly inspired by the life and work of Mahatama Gandhi. Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan was a product ambassador for QNet globally from May 2011 to May 2013.
– Official spokesperson, QNet in India
Did you know?
Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan was a product ambassador for QNet globally from May 2011 to May 2013.
What is QNet?
QNet Ltd, or QuestNet or GoldQuest or Qi limited, is a direct selling company owned by the QI Group. QNet was founded by Dato Vijay Eswaran in 1998 in Hong Kong. Eswaran is Malaysian by birth and an Indian by ethnicity. In India, QNet's MLM operation was controlled by QuestNet Enterprises (India) Pvt Ltd. Till April 13, 2012, the company was registered in Chennai. A day later, it shifted all agents, databases and business to Vihaan Direct Selling Pvt Ltd in Bengaluru.
Later, Eswaran floated-GoldQuest and QuestNet Enterprises, and had allegedly duped thousands of people.