Orient Resorts had raised more than Rs10 crore from over 50,000 investors through collective investment schemes by promising 100 times return by investing in teak tree saplings
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has asked Orient Resorts to wind up its operations and refund the money which it had collected from public promising 100 times return by investing in teak tree saplings.
SEBI had received a complaint alleging that Orient Resorts had raised more than Rs10 crore from over 50,000 investors through collective investment schemes (CIS) without obtaining requisite registration from the market regulator.
In an order dated 26th November, SEBI asked Orient Resorts to wind up all such activities and refund the money collected from public investors within three months.
Besides the company, Darshanbhai Arvindbhai Shah (former managing director) and two directors Brahm Dev Amarnath Shukla and Dilpesh V Shah have also been barred from dealing in the securities market for a period of three years.
SEBI, prima facie observed, that Orient Resorts had launched a scheme — Vanashree Teak Bumper Profits Scheme — in 1993. It called for an investment of Rs910 per unit for a period of 18 years from the investors and claimed that the investors would receive Rs91,000 for every Rs910 invested for one unit.
The money collected was pooled towards setting up of a teak plantation.
Ram Sumarian Pal, one of the three masterminds, confessed to duping people through the Speak Asia scam. He said he used to flee to Malaysia through Kathmandu whenever he felt he was under threat
Exposing the Speak Asia online survey scam further, the Delhi police have arrested Ram Sumiran Pal, one of the three masterminds behind the multi-level marketing (MLM) fraud estimated at Rs2,200 crore. The police are now searching for the other two ‘masterminds,’ his brother Ram Niwas and Manoj Kumar Sharma. Speak Asia is among the 87 companies being probed by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for allegedly running Ponzi or money circulation schemes.
According to a report in Times of India, during the interrogation, Pal told the police that, he was living with his in-laws in Dehradun since the company shut shop in 2011 and had invested the scam money in real estate. Besides launching construction projects for villas and luxury duplex flats in Dehradun, Pal admitted that he bought office and residential spaces in Mumbai, besides agricultural and commercial land in his hometown Shajahanpur, Uttar Pradesh for a luxury hotel.
Pal further said that, whenever the heat of investigation was on, he used to flee to Malaysia by boarding a flight from Kathmandu after reaching Nepal by road or train. Interestingly this has been the route for many Indian scamsters including Dinesh Dalmia of DSQ Software.
Moneylife was the first to report the Speak Asia fraud in October 2010. The mysterious trail of Speak Asia runs through several companies and the money was being remitted to purchase 'survey software' from a company linked to the shadowy promoters.
According to the Delhi police, Pal and his aides took over or set up multi-level marketing companies registered abroad—Ad-Matrix in Singapore and Seven Rings International in Italy, for instance—are attracting investments due to their global profile. There were some buyouts in Brazil as well. These were later used to launder money. One such company, Speak Asia, in Singapore was introduced in India in 2010 by the brothers with the help of Manoj Kumar Sharma and Haren Kaur. Singapore-based Harendar or Haren Kaur used to appear at Speak Asia events as promoter and chairperson of the MLM operator.
Speak Asia duped around 23 lakh investors to the tune of over Rs2,000 crore. It was promising a weekly income, merely on filling online survey forms. Initially, the company paid the money to its panellists but stopped all the payments since May 2010. After complaints were lodged against the company, it came under the scrutiny of EOW, Mumbai.
Subsequently the investigating agency arrested Speak Asia’s chief operating officer (COO), Tarak Bajpayee and along with few other employees. Later, on 30 September 2011, EOW arrested Speak Asia’s financial consultant Sanjeev Dandona and Nayan Khandor, a Mumbai-based web designer responsible for designing e-surveys. It was revealed that the survey, which the company used to send to its panellists were designed in Mumbai itself and not in Singapore as claimed by Speak Asia.
Currently, both Ram Niwas Pal and Manoj Kumar Sharma, the chief executive officer Speak Asia, are absconding. Nothing is known about the whereabouts of Haren Kaur as well.
According to a news report, while it is being investigated in India, Speak Asia is suspected to have resurfaced in Brazil under the new name “Mister Colibri”, which has a business model similar to Speak Asia and also lists Manoj Kumar as its largest investor.
“The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has found that Speak Asia diverted the money to countries like Brazil, Dubai, Italy, Malaysia and Singapore. The ED found a trail of Rs900 crore remitted to Singapore alone,” police have said.
So far, investigation agencies have frozen around 200 bank accounts related with Speak Asia with more than Rs140 crore in them and have identified another 150 suspicious accounts.
The money was reportedly sent from India to banks in Singapore and from there to Dubai, Italy and United Kingdom. Interestingly, the money was routed back from UK to Dubai to India through the launderers called 'master collecting agents'.
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There is no scientific study to tell us if at all is safe to combine drugs in one poly-pill
A few years ago, the British Medical Journal wrote an editorial on the need to have a broad perspective on killer diseases like heart attacks, strokes and their risks. I was a bit confused by the editorial and the connected articles in that issue. Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief, and the authors of the cited articles were advocating a broad perspective in preventing cardiovascular diseases, and rightly so. However, at the same time, they were forgetting the most important aspect of the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases: the mind. Several studies, including the White Hall study, had shown that hostility, clinical depression and various other work-related stressors are risk factors. While the editor-in-chief and the contributors seemed engrossed in some of the questionable risks like cholesterol, raised sugar and arterial pressure, the vital role of the human mind was ignored.
The editorial is all about the new brahma-astra against many deadly diseases like stroke, heart attack and sudden death. The single-pill-for-life therapy is to start at the age of around 55 and go on till death! The drug, known as polypill, contains small doses of many drugs, namely, aspirin, three blood pressure (BP) lowering drugs, statins and folic acid. All the drugs are in sub-optimal doses. There is no scientific study to tell us if at all it is safe to combine these drugs in one pill. What has happened to our evidence base?
What is the basis of selecting people at the age of 55 for the pill? Many younger people die of heart attacks and stroke too. Should we not protect them also? From that point of view, it will be nice to start the polypill from birth, like the multitude of untested vaccinations that we give to kids today! I am worried about another fallout. For a healthy person aged 55, if three anti-hypertensive drugs are given unnecessarily, there is a chance of his BP plummeting. At the age of 55, most, if not all, people will have some degree of coronary artery blocks that are normal and do not produce diseases.
However, coronary filling occurs in diastole only. During sleep, these unfortunate victims’ BP could go so low that the diastolic filling in the partially blocked coronaries might get jeopardised leading to death! The multitude of possible adverse reactions of these drugs in combination could be mind-boggling. Although we have known aspirin for 350 years, we still do not know its ideal dose! That said, what of the other drugs in the polypill that haven’t stood the test of time?
All the components of the polypill are advocated in the editorial as panacea for prevention. When tested individually, even in adequate doses, it did not significantly reduce the likelihood of stroke, heart attack or death. While there were significant ‘relative’ risk reductions, the absolute risk reductions were negligible and the number needed to treat was prohibitively high, with dangerous (even fatal) adverse drug reactions. Ebrahim Shah and GD Smith went one step further to show that the ‘pooled effect’ of multiple risk-factor interventions on mortality was insignificant and very small. Professor Michael Oliver, Fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh, has shown that drug use for risk reduction is almost useless. GD Smith and M Egger ask a very pertinent question in their journal titled Who Benefits from Medical Interventions. All these add up to the case of the missing evidence of Sherlock Holmes. To cap it: the very basis of fat hypothesis in the causation of killer diseases is being questioned even in Western science!
All these efforts to use drugs at the drop of a hat are due to the inseparable marriage between the pharmaceutical lobby and the medical profession. In the words of one of the leaders in the field, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, “The ties between clinical research and industry include not only grant support, but also a host of other financial arrangements. Researchers serve as consultants to companies whose products they are studying, join the advisory boards, and the speakers’ bureaus, enter into patent and royalty arrangements, agree to be listed authors of articles ghost written by interested companies, promote drugs and devices at company sponsored symposia, and allow themselves to be plied with expensive gifts and trips to luxurious settings. Many also have equity interest in companies.” Human illness and wellness need a very broad perspective, indeed! Our present perspective will not pass the scrutiny of Sherlock Holmes.
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.