SFIO probing 67 companies for running Ponzi, MLM schemes

SFIO is probing 67 companies for running Ponzi or money circulation schemes. In addition, the government has received complaints of financial fraud against 154 companies including Saradha, Rose Valley group, Vaishnavi Corporate Communication, Speak Asia, Reebok India and Alchemist Infra

Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) is probing 67 companies for allegedly running Ponzi or money circulation schemes. Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot said his ministry has ordered SFIO to conduct probe against 67 companies who had allegedly floated Ponzi or multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes.

 

"...Investigation is being conducted in respect of all of them. As and when the investigation is completed, government orders prosecution in respect of violations of the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 and Indian Penal Code, 1860," Pilot said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

 

Ponzi or MLM schemes are fraudulent investment operations, which lure investors with promise of high returns.

 

Pilot also said the government is looking into complaints of financial frauds against 154 companies including those connected with Saradha Group and Rose Valley Group.

 

"Complaints have been received against 154 companies/ organisations during the last three years," he said, adding that his ministry has ordered probe of the balance sheets and other documents in these cases.

 

"Some cases have been referred to the Economic Offences Wing (EoW) of the concerned state government for further investigation," he added.

 

As per the list provided by the Minister, complaints of financial fraud have been received against Saradha Group's 10 entities such as Saradha Realty, Saradha Agro Development, Saradha Exports and Saradha Garden Resorts & Hotel.

 

Besides, the list includes names of 14 entities related to Rose Valley Group including Rose Valley Industries, Rose Valley Marketing and Rose Valley Hotels and Entertainment.

 

Vaishnavi Corporate Communication, Speak Asia, Reebok India, Alchemist Infra are among the other companies against whom complaints have been received, according to the list.

 

On steps initiated by the government to detect corporate wrongdoings, Pilot said the ministry is in the process of developing an early warning system to identify cases of frauds or potential frauds at the earliest.

 

"Pilot testing of the system is expected to be completed during 2013-14," the Minister said.

 

In addition, Pilot said various measures had been undertaken to protect the investor' interests through programmes on awareness and education.

 

Some of these steps include issue of multi-lingual print media advertisements from time to time to caution the investors about fraudulent investment schemes, creation of facility on MCA-21 website for lodging complaints and for tracking their status and a system of sending SMSes cautioning investors to be careful while making investments.

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Charu Deshpande's jottings point to a suicide note?
The investigating team from Mumbai that questioned several officials, including some in the vice-president rank at Tata Steel, had found a handwritten note and other evidence in connection with the alleged suicide of Charu Deshpande 
 
A six-member team of Mumbai police that interrogated several officials of Tata Steel in connection with the alleged suicide of Charudutta (Charu) Deshpande, the steelmaker's former chief of corporate communication claimed to have found a handwritten note. 
 
According to a release from Press Club, Mumbai, the police have unearthed notings in Charu Deshpande's handwriting where he has mentioned some of the circumstances and names associated with his harassment in the days and months before his death. "These jottings virtually amount to a suicide note with statements that say, 'I go without fear, or rancour!’ the release added.
 
Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police, told a delegation of the Mumbai Press Club that the police team that had gone to the Tata Steel headquarters at Jamshedpur had seized Deshpande's personal computer and was examining as many as 1,000 emails he had stored. "We have interrogated as many as 47 persons so far including the vice-presidents Partho Sengupta, Ramesh Krishnan, the assistant of Charu and the current head of corporate communications," Roy said.
 
Roy, in a briefing on the progress of the investigations by the joint team of Thane Rural and Mumbai Crime Branch police, said the investigations revealed that Charu Deshpande had no family disputes or problems at home, and that his frustration and disappointment was because of his work place and his experiences at Tata Steel. It was discovered that Deshpande was the first person in Tata Steel - who despite being appointed at very senior IL2 level of seniority - was not confirmed in service after completion of his probation.
 
"In the weeks before his exit in May, depositions revealed that Deshpande's behaviour became more nervous and he began to smoke heavily. In one instance, this even triggered a fire alarm," Roy said, adding, "He developed a sense of frustration because of being sidelined and denied normal travel opportunities which he thought were very essential to fulfil his job profile. Only two of his 36 requests for travel were sanctioned. His request for an audience with the senior management was repeatedly denied." 
 
Roy mentioned that the general harassment of Charu Deshpande become more focused and sharp after the publication of an article in Forbes Magazine on Tata Steel in February. "The article was not too negative of Tata Steel, but some Tata Steel managers perceived it so, and blamed it on Charu. It has been established that he was uncomfortable with one or two persons; and the harassment by his tormentors only increased after the Forbes article," he said.
 
The Police are still examining the data and are keen to fill some gaps. Police teams may visit Jamshedpur again if so required, and the investigation will soon be completed and the case will be taken to its logical conclusion, Roy said.
 
Meanwhile, on 27 July, the internal Inquiry Committee (IC) appointed by Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry on the Charu Deshpande case, held a special sitting to record the depositions of Rajesh Chaturvedi, MD of Adfactors PR, Vinda Walawalkar, PR executive and Prince Mathew, author of the Forbes article. The three persons had been in close touch with Charu before his death and the calling for these witnesses was formally requested by the Press Club, the release said.
 
However, the release from Mumbai Press Club, is also sketchy as it leaves out several issues. If the police claim harassment, why are they not acting on this? Also, why did the IC of Tata group seek deposition from three outsiders, when all the action was inside Tata Steel (as per the police)?  
 
 
You may also want to read:  Death of a PR Man
 
 
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COMMENTS

Vinay Joshi

5 years ago

Ms.Sucheta & Mr. Debashis,

ARE YOU NOT ACCREDITED MEMBERS OF THE PRESS?!None from your org?!!

Why should the Press Club, even if sketchy, IN THE FIRST PLACE release on which you depend upon?

Have you understood the provisions of the release?

Introspect.

Regards,

How Vodafone helped dupe its own subscriber

If you are in the habit of returning calls or missed calls received on mobile, beware; you may end up making an ISD call that costs Rs50-Rs100 per minute. In this case, the Vodafone subscriber received and dialled an ISD number without using any prefix like '00' or '+' or country code and yet was billed in thousands 

As if receiving unsolicited commercial communications (marketing calls, SMS) was not enough, here is a stunning case of a Vodafone subscriber who is billed exorbitantly for returning a call to a 'missed call' number. The number (2699108063) did not have any prefix to denote whether it is a local, STD or international number. Technically, the call should have been rejected by the mobile service provider, as direct dialling to numbers starting with '2' is not allowed in India. Mobile number within the same circle can be dialled directly (without any prefix), for call to any landline number one needs to add the STD code and for ISD, you will have to use either '00' or '+' and then the country code, as per the norms. And yet, Vodafone billed the subscriber at Rs50 per minute calling the number as an international (ISD) call.

 

Here is the first person account from the post-paid subscriber of Vodafone...

 

"I work as an accountant and my job includes dealing with various banks, financial firms, government bodies, etc. as well as speaking to a vast cross-section of people on a daily basis. I am on the phone most of the time and I regularly call back people who are on call waiting or if there is a missed call on my mobile.
 

In June, I received a missed call from 2699108063, an unknown number that did not have any prefix. As, usual I did not check any prefix before the number and called back. There was a girl on the other end who was speaking in fluent Hindi. She was speaking softly and slowly and hence I could not hear her voice very clearly. (In a way she was dragging the call, I realised later). Since, I could not hear her clearly, I called her again. Again her voice was not very clear and the call went on for a long time due to this. What little I could make from the call was that she was from Lokhandwala in Andheri and was seeking my personal information.
 

Later, when I saw the bill from Vodafone, I was shocked to find the calls to this number added up to Rs2,050. When I contacted Vodafone, they said this call was made to an international number and was charged at Rs50 per minute. I wonder how that number can be an international one as the girl said she was speaking from Lokhandwala in fluent Hindi."

 

The subscriber is a high-value customer of Vodafone with a dynamic credit limit of over Rs75,000. When the subscriber complained to Vodafone, he received an advice of being careful while calling back on unknown missed call number. As expected the mobile operator refused to reverse the charges.

Moneylife sent an email to Vodafone about this missed call scam where the subscriber was billed for calling a missed call number. We too received the standard reply from the PR agency of Vodafone. It says, "The scenario you have described in your mail about fraudulent international missed calls is one that is affecting the entire industry. People who are committing this fraud call from international SIMs, give one or two rings and then stop. This induces the receiver to call back."

 

The PR Agency also quoted the standard disclaimer from Vodafone's site, which says, "Please do not call any unidentified international number as it may result in higher call charges".

 

Unfortunately, the standard disclaimer does not resolve the issue. Especially, how a customer should identify an ISD number if the caller ID service from the mobile operator does not show the clear markings? And this may not be just a single occurrence.

 

Claiming that this type of incidents is not limited to Vodafone, the PR agency promised to get back to us with a complete and detailed answer. However, we never heard from them again.

 

Instead, on 23rd July, we received a call from Suresh Rangarajan, associate vice president for public relations at Vodafone India. He said, his team is finding out the details from its switches and would get back to us soon. (The switch is a computer-controlled component of a telephone network that connects two lines to complete a telephone call) Till writing the article, there was no response from Vodafone. We will incorporate their reply as and when we receive it.

 

In the meantime, Amin Shaikh, one of the customer service executives of Vodafone, contacted the subscriber offering to waive off 30% of the amount from his bill. When the subscriber refused, the Vodafone executive increased it to 50%. However, the subscriber out rightly, rejected this offer as well.

 

After searching on Vodafone site, we found that the number 2699108063 dialled by the subscriber, was from Comoros, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean. For calls made from India to this small African nation, Vodafone charges Rs50 per minute. However, we are amazed how the subscriber can make a direct ISD call without any prefix to the Comoros Island. Is there something more than what meets the eye?

 

There is a possibility that the 'missed call' may be from a charge-back number. But even in this case, Vodafone should have informed this to its subscriber, which it didn't. In the absence of any such mechanism, how the subscriber is supposed to know if the call he is making would cost him a bomb?

 

The only thing, a subscriber, especially a mobile user, can do is not to call back on any unknown and missed call numbers or install some application like TrueCaller that provide the information of the caller.

 

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COMMENTS

Om

4 years ago

Hi,
I am an vodafone subscriber This month I have received bill for the Fraud Call Rs 1120/-. I fell vodafone is all part of this fraud because of following reason
1)The fraud is occurring for 2 yrs for which they have not built any security system to control this Fraud.
2) The international settlement which they are doing for these call they are the profit of these fraud.

As per that business is growing they are not interested in customer nor TRAI is taking action against them on this issue.

God save, Money transfer facility is also with them still security is not implemented for fraud call

raj

5 years ago

Whenever you get missed call from international number, calling nummber always comes with prefix "+" symbol. Whenever we get missed call from India, calling number always comes with prefix "+91".
We are also getting missed calls from such International number. It always comes with Prefix "+" symbol. These are ISD calls and connects to Friendship Chat Line in India. Vodafone has noting to do with such number.

REPLY

MDT

In Reply to raj 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment.
Kindly read the story once again. It clearly says (quoting the subscriber) "I received a missed call from 2699108063, an unknown number that did not have any prefix".
Also nowhere the article says about Vodafone having anything to do with with the number. All the article says is why there was no 'prefix'? So why are you giving clarification on behalf of Vodafone?
Thanks,
MDT

Pankaj Mehta

5 years ago

I too had the same problem with Vodafone, with a single ring when just retiring to sleep at 11 pm from 2698100216. In half sleep you think this call is from somewhere in Maharashtra, and call back. The bill showed a charge of Rs 50/min. A email to Vodafone to complain brought no response. Glad Moneylife wrote this article.

Vodafone India

5 years ago

Hello Sir/Madam,

Please help us with your current and alternate contact numbers at http://bit.ly/18Ymcln and we will get back to you with assistance at the earliest.

Regards,
Vodafone Customer Care.

REPLY

MDT

In Reply to Vodafone India 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Good to see that you are active in resolving a subscriber's issue when posted in public forum.
BTW...any comment on the issue mentioned in the article?
Regards,
MDT

Nihar Mody

5 years ago

Is vodafone involved in this scam? I never receive such calls on my Reliance number!

What does caller gain from such missed calls and we calling back. Clearly Vodafone is the gainer.

arvindkumar baid

5 years ago

Similar case has happened with me. In my mobile i had stored a 9 digit number to prevent sms being sent by my children inadvertently while using mobile on the first number stored on mobile. But the vodafone actually deducted charges for the same and that too std charges stating that the message has been delivered even though i don't think there is any 9 digit mobile number in our country. i have kept vodafone number for incoming call as there connectivity is good in gujarat but for outgoing calls i am using other operator

REPLY

Vodafone India

In Reply to arvindkumar baid 5 years ago

Hello Arvind,

Please help us with your current and alternate contact numbers at http://bit.ly/15C6nvX and we will get back to you with assistance at the earliest.

Regards,
Vodafone Customer Care.

MDT

In Reply to Vodafone India 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Good to see that you are active in resolving a subscriber's issue when posted in public forum.
BTW...any comment on the issue mentioned in the article?
Regards,
MDT

Simple Indian

5 years ago

I had been a Vodafone subscriber in Mumbai for 4 years and was desperately waiting for the MNP policy, as Vodafone's tariffs are among the costliest in the circle. Besides, it was perhaps the first mobile telecom operator to start charging its own subscribers for calling up their Customer Care (think it was 123). They also twice rejected my MNP request on frivolous grounds of "you have violated the contractual obligations" which turned out to be due to an add-on SMS Pack I had subscribed to (how silly of them). Finally, when I managed to migrate to another operator through MNP, my bill charges dropped by over 50% - for the same usage.
It is an open secret that Airtel-Vodafone-Idea are a cartel and raise tariffs in tandem.

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