QNet: Mumbai police register fraud case against the MLM
EoW from Mumbai registered an FIR against QNet, the MLM company, for allegedly duping thousands by selling them plastic and glass products as miraculous objects
QNet, the controversial Hong Kong-based multi-level marketing (MLM) operator with multiple names (GoldQuest, QuestNet, QNet, QI Ltd and QI group are the better-known names) has finally come under the radar of Mumbai police.
According to a report in Times of India, the economic offenses wing (EoW) of Mumbai police has registered against QNet, for allegedly duping thousands of investors by selling them plastic and glass products terming them miraculous objects for treating severe diseases like Cancer.
"The firm (QNet) posed as a marketing firm which would sell bio-disc, watches, chiPendants, gold coins, herbal products, e-education packages and holiday packages. They even claimed that by using the bio disc one can cure cancer and brain related diseases," the report said quoting a police officer.
UPDATE: According to a report from Times of India, the EoW has arrested Bandra-based Manjunath Hegde for cheating in the QNet case. He was reminded to police custody till 22nd August. "Hegde, who is an advertiser by profession, was arrested from his Bandra residence. We searched his house and seized computer hard disc and several incriminating documents, which will be produced in the court. There are some payment/commission receipts among the documents," the report said quoting an investigator.
The complainant, Gurupreet Singh Anand, 40, a computer consultant from Lokhandawala, Andheri stated that his wife was duped for Rs30,000 by some people who had introduced themselves as the independent representatives (IRs) of QNet. Anand told the police, "They (IRs) had said that one of the bio-products my wife bought could be used to treat my 12-year-old son's brain related diseases".
The first information report (FIR) names five accused, including QNet's Hong Kong-based founder Dato Vijay Eswaran, a Malaysian by birth and an Indian by ethnicity, who is photographed hobnobbing with the Prince of Saudi Arabia, in order to enhance its credibility in the Gulf.
(Vijay Eswaran (circled), the founder of QNet along with Dev Wadhwani (in blue shirt), VP of QNet Source: facebook.com/QNETIndiaOfficial)
"One of the wanted accused Vijay Eswaran, had earlier floated two firms; Gold Quest and Quest Net Enterprises, in India and duped thousands of people. These two firms were also popular in Egypt, Afghanistan and Malaysia. We are trying to zero in on Eswaran and will soon arrest him," the newspaper said quoting the officer.
While QuestNet and GoldQuest, which mainly sold numismatic gold coins (they claimed they were limited edition coins that whose value would increase over time) in 2009 were forced to shut shop in India, their new avatar QNet offers a broader range of lifestyle ‘enhancing’ products (holiday packages, diamond watches, bio-discs, Chi-Pendants and herbal products for anything between Rs30,000 to Rs7 lakh), which promise fabulously high returns so long as new distributors are enrolled rapidly. Its product brochure says, “With 8 ways to earn and up to 50% of the sales paid out in commissions, QNET offers the most dynamic and innovative compensation plan in the direct selling profession.”
(Suresh Thimiri, MD & CEO, QNet India (circled) with Indian Tennis stars at the Davis Cup Source: facebook.com/QNETIndiaOfficial)
The last time around, QNet was being evangelised by former World Billiards champion Michael Ferriera, as well as some former international cricketers. QNet even sponsored the Indian tennis team for Davis Cup. This time, it is being hard-sold by senior corporate executives, including heads of multinational companies, who have been forced to quit in the 40s and 50s, having fallen off the career ladder. Moneylife has received emails from several worried readers asking us to bring the “QNet scam” to the attention of regulators before it dupes their friends and relatives already ensnared by the hard sell.
(Muttiah Muralitharan, the greatest Test match bowler from Sri Lanka at QNet event. During 2005, the GoldQuest scheme spread across Sri Lanka, marketing gold coins for double their worth. This forced the country to frame new law to ban MLMs, especially GoldQuest. Image Source: facebook.com/QNETIndiaOfficial )
Manoj Arora (name changed), a chartered accountant and management consultant tells us how he decided to string along a QNet ‘operative’ to understand its modus operandi which promises to make you a millionaire in two or three years.
He was scandalized at what he discovered and says, “QNet is just not about Amway-esque MLM but a Stockguru-type pyramid scheme. The premise is to get more and more people to invest Rs1 lakh to Rs6 lakh in an 'e-commerce' venture. They make you owners of QI group by selling three shares for every Rs1 lakh. How does that generate returns? The victims who are enrolled into the scheme, in turn hunt for newer victims to buy into the Ponzi. They are entitled to get 14% of share capital they or their victims raise. The scam is proliferating through social media like Linked-in to find newer targets. This reader had stored names and screenshots of people canvassing QNet from their profiles on Linked-in.
Well, the company had a chequered past. In 2008-09 it was making waves like it is today. At that time, it flaunted powerful political connections (at that time a GoldQuest executive, K Preetha had said that Nalini Chidambaram was a legal advisor. This was after we pointed out that the connection was highlighted at its meetings to recruit/ensnare new agents). However, QuestNet virtually folded-up after the Chennai police arrested several employees and the business was in complete disarray.
QNet claims that a Diamond Star can earn up to Rs27,73,800 (Rs27.7 lakh) per week while the same for a Platinum Star would be Rs22,39,050 (Rs22.4 lakh) a week. The money earned by a Diamond Star in QNet is almost the same that Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries (RIL), India's richest man as per the Forbes list, earns every week as salary (Mukesh Ambani forgoes Rs23.82 crore from his pay package ). We all have heard about Mr Ambani and his wealth. However, nobody knows how many Diamond or Platinum Stars are there in QNet's MLM network. If you know, please share it.
There are several people who are now demanding their money back from QNet. Few of them even posted such messages on QNet India's page on Facebook. On 20th May, Suryakant Kaushik, posted: "Even after a month of filing for the cancellation, I am still waiting for the refund. Adding to this, I have dialled the customer care numbers-+91 99 0006 3901 & +91 96 8668 9974.10-15 times a day but nobody responded. I am very frustrated by the way my case is handled. Never thought that the refund process could take more than a month and still nothing can be said about the status."
CA Abhishek Sahay wrote this message: "hi CHIEF Pathman...on 1st AUG 2013 I bought QVI Club membership from QNET for Rs2.61 Lakh and on 2nd August, I requested to cancel it and refund full amount, QNET official assured initially to refund full amount but now they are not responding my call or email. I request you to please look into the matter and get my full refund as soon as possible. My IRship is IN*****9 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Please do not let me feel cheated by your Company QNET. Please do not check my calmness. Refund my money ASAP."
Bala Kavassery posted this message: "I have been requesting since last 5 days with QNet support team India for cancellation of my IR IN*****4 and refund of vacation package ordered earlier. No support or response forthcoming till date. Once again request for my IR cancellation and refund of vacation package amount."
As Moneylife wrote earlier, Ashu Dutt, a well-known television journalist shared how he and his family became a victim of QNet. He said, "QI/ QNet/ QuestNet/ GoldQuest/ Faith Network is not just a fraud, but they lure women to break away from their families and then go after the family money. My own wife fell into this trap. Once this was done, they got her to put money from our house and relatives. Once they trap the women, they go after their wealth. My wife has now gone on to take over our assets by changing directors and doing all kinds of illegal corporate stuff guided by QI kingpins. This is my story. I can tell you that there are hundreds of Indian families that have been ruined by these people. In Mumbai, they use hypnotism and cult-like practices (wearing white clothes with blue pendants)."
In India, QNet’s MLM operations were controlled by QuestNet Enterprises (India) Pvt Ltd, a company registered at Chennai till 13 April 2012. From next day, it shifted all its registered agents, database and business to Vihaan Direct Selling Pvt Ltd, company registered in Bengaluru.
Moneylife has done extensive work on all MLMs and come to the conclusion that all of them fall foul of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978. We have also made representations to the Prime Minister’s office to ban MLMs altogether or allow them to operate under a clear regulatory framework under a designated regulator.
Today, while tens of thousands MLMs and Ponzis are cheating people no ministry or regulator is in charge. The ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) does not even require these companies to be incorporated in India. This ludicrous situation persists at a time when there is such heated debate about legitimate foreign direct investment in retail and insurance.
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