The man behind the Pearls Group.

The man behind the Pearls Group.

ED charge sheets Pearls Group in Rs 48,000 crore ponzi scam

Accused of cheating 5.5 crore investors on pretext of selling farm land

Agency Report | New Delhi | 12 September, 2018 | 11:40 PM

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday filed a charge- sheet against Pearls Group and its chief Nirmal Singh Bhangoo in connection with a ponzi scam involving over Rs 48,000 crore.

Apart from Bhangoo, who is in judicial custody, three of his colleagues and several of his commission agents have also been named in the ED charge sheet filed in a special court here under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED, which started the probe after lodging an FIR in 2015 based on the Central Bureau of Investigation’s case, had in January attached Australia-based assets of Pearls Group and Bhangoo worth Rs 472 crore.

The CBI had arrested Bhangoo and his three colleagues in 2016 following allegations that they collected funds from investors in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and other states through ponzi schemes, in the name of real estate projects.

Bhangoo, his companies PACL and PGFL, as well as lakhs of his commission agents were accused of cheating 5.5 crore investors on the pretext of sale and development of agriculture land.

The companies made false allotments of land to investors even though they did not own any land in their own name.

Bhangoo and his companies promised the investors that allotment would be done on their investment between 90 and 270 days and if not, handsome returns would be paid.

The ED said the promoters and directors of PACL and PGFL collected more than Rs 48,000 crore of funds from investors all over the country through a collective investment scheme in the garb of sale and development of agriculture land. Earlier the amount was estimated over Rs 45,000 crore.

“Of the total funds, PACL invested Rs 164 crore in Pearls Infrastructure Projects Limited (PIPL) for acquiring 25.37 per cent shares and the remaining 74.63 per cent shares of PIPL were acquired indirectly by PACL through its 43 front companies for an investment of Rs 493.18 crore. In total, PIPL received Rs 657.18 crore from PACL during 2009 to 2014,” said an ED statement.

The statement said that the PIPL, an associate company of PACL, further invested Rs 147.38 crore in 2010 for acquiring 50 shares of Australian firm Miiresorts Group 1 Pty Ltd, and Rs 459.23 crore from 2009 to 2014 for acquiring 99.24 shares of another Australian firm Miigroup Holdings Pty Ltd.

“Miigroup further invested Rs 147.38 crore in Miiresorts for acquiring 50 per cent of shares. An amount of Rs 25.07 crore was remitted to Australia to Hicky Lawyers Trust for purchase of immovable property (Sanctuary Cove Properties).

“In May 2010, Miiresorts, out of the funds received, purchased Sheraton Mirage Hotel in approximately AUS $62.5 million and sold it to Australian Wattle Development Pty Ltd in AUS 87.37 million equivalent to Rs 447 crore by the order of the Federal Court of Australia,” the statement said.

The Miiresorts and Miigroup are controlled by Bhangoo and his family members.