After applying the stringent MPID Act in the QNet case, the EOW has arrested a top leader for conducting a training session for the MLM scheme. The Mumbai police has even asked Cafe Coffee Day-CCD to shut its doors to representatives of the controversial MLM operator and all its associate companies
The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police is tightening the rope around QNet, the controversial multi-level marketing (MLM), its exclusive franchisee Vihaan Direct Selling (India) Pvt Ltd, QNet Ltd (Hong Kong), Transview Enterprises India Pvt Ltd and Vanamala Hotels, Travels & Tourism Services Pvt Ltd and all its agents. The EOW also arrested Tarun Ratnani, a top leader from QNet, while he was conducting a training session at Andheri in Mumbai on Sunday.
Earlier, following directions from the EOW, popular coffee shop chain Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) has banned representatives of QNet, Vihaan and all its associate companies from operating from its coffee shops. A notice pasted by CCD at all its outlets in Mumbai, reads: "As per instructions received from Economic Offence Wing- Crime branch, Mumbai and Additional Police Commission of EOW Mumbai, entry is prohibited for representatives, staff and employees of Vihaan Direct Selling, QNet, Transview Enterprises and Vanamala Hotels, Travels & Tourism Services. NOTE: We are not associated with the above mentioned in anyway." Coffee shops such as CCD and Barista have been regular haunts for the hardsell of QNet schemes and, in what seemed to be a tacit understanding with the staff, they were allowed to hang around for hours without placing any order.
According to a report from Mumbai Mirror, Ratnani, who has been associated with the company for the last three years, was caught red-handed by the EOW team while holding a training session for dozens of people at a hall in Andheri. According to EOW officials, on Sunday the workshop was being conducted at Kentstar Hall, near Fun Republic multiplex in Andheri. Ratnani, along with around 70 people, had assembled in the hall at 10am for the training workshop. The owner of the hall told the newspaper that the premises were being regularly used since August, and so far six workshops were conducted on weekdays as well as weekends.
Quoting an official from EOW, the report says, Ratnani was found involved with QNet for past three years and had collected profits worth Rs50 crore. Ratnani's BMW is also seized by the police.
Last week, the EOW booked 19 accused including Michael Ferreira, the former world champion of billiards and five companies related with QNet, under the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act. This means all the cases against QNet, Vihaan and all those involved in the MLM scam would be heard before the special MPID Court. Until now, the accused were being investigated for cheating and forgery under the Prize, Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act 1978, and for money laundering by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Commenting on the EOW move, Zaheer Merchant, legal head and director of corporate affairs at QNET, in a statement said, “It is really unfortunate that the police have chosen to take this drastic step despite the fact that QNet and its India franchisee Vihaan have been fully cooperating with the investigation. We will challenge this legally to protect QNet, its employees and customers’ interests.”
Ferreira, the former world billions champion, has been under the EOW scanner following the exposure of the QNet MLM scam. Ferreira owns 80% stake in Vihaan Direct Selling that handles QNet's MLM operations in India since 14 April 2012.
In August 2014, the EOW while making a sensational disclosure has told the Sessions Court that a document submitted by the seven QNet leaders in their anticipatory bail application was bogus and concocted.
According to EOW, the team leaders of QNet, including former world billiards champion Ferreira, Srinavas Rao Vanka, Magarlal Viravali Balaji, Malcolm Nozer Desai, Navjyot Mahesh Das, Chinar Surendra Shinde and Mereilla Kamal Dutta have misled the Court by submitting a fake document while seeking bail. This is in connection with various charges made by the intrepid whistleblower Gurpreet Singh.
The EOW of Mumbai Police, which is probing the MLM fraud, had so far arrested 19 team leaders of QNet for allegedly duping investors by offering to sell products such as magnetic disks, herbal products and holiday schemes through fraudulent practices. The accused have been charged with cheating and forgery under relevant sections of the Prize, Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act 1978.
Another interesting aspect in the whole episode is all top officials (?) of QNet India do not want to reveal their identity and remain hidden. We repeatedly sent emails to the company's official PR agency and also some officials from its parent QI group. Till date, neither the MLM company nor its PR agency is ready to reveal identity of its top management or leaders in India.