Rs 100 crore Ponzi scheme surfaces in Mount Abu

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JAIPUR: Mt Abu-based Arbuda Credit Co-operative Society Ltd is under the scanner of the Rajasthan and Gujarat police for allegedly duping 3,000 members spread across these two states. Twelve FIRs have been filed in Gujarat and four in Rajasthan against the cooperative in the last few days. Police have estimated that the Ponzi scam could be about Rs 100 crore on the basis of initial reports.

On Sunday, the Rajasthan police seized hard disks, laptops and documents from the head office of the society at Mt Abu even as the Gujarat police formed a special team, headed by ADGP Anil Pratham, to carry out investigation into complaints from that state.

As per initial reports, the society is suspected to have attracted over Rs 50 crore as deposits at 47 branches in Gujarat and Rs 50 crore in the head office at Mt Abu.

The prime suspects in the scam–Rakesh Agarwal and his wife Asha Agarwal–are untraceable since January 20, a day after they made an appeal in newspapers of returning the maturity amount to all stakeholders.Founded in 2012, the society spread its wings faster in cash-rich Gujarat than in Rajasthan. Gujaratis, who frequently flocked to Mt Abu, were the prime targets of the society.

By 2016, the society , with licences to operate in multiple states, had set up 47 branches in Gujarat.

Many also fell prey to easy soft loans and investment plans offered by the society. It paid huge rewards to agents–gold, silver coins along with laptops for meeting targets–and attracted a large workforce who operated in every city in Gujarat. It has also been learnt that the society’s founder had given loans to family members and relatives to take out the money systematically.

The demonetization drive helped to unearth the scam as the society became exposed when people started demanding their money back. “All seized material will be sent to FSL in Jaipur for investigation. The exact amount and the number of members will be known only after the report,” said Vijay Pal, deputy SP from Mt Abu. Police have sought the help of cybercrime expert Mukesh Choudhary who has tracked the servers of the society at Sirohi and Udaipur. These servers have account details and balance sheets of all branches.