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Lookout notice on Yash Birla

Mumbai, Feb. 2: A “lookout” notice has been issued for industrialist Yash Birla, known for his presence on the party circuit than in boardrooms associated with his famous surname.

The economic offences wing of Mumbai police has issued the notice following complaints by investors that his company Birla Power Solutions cheated them of over Rs 57 crore.

Such a notice need not necessarily mean that a person is in hiding but it ensures that the police are notified as soon as the subject tries to pass immigration counters at airports, ports and borders.

The alleged amount involved is not huge by industry standards but the Birla name and Yash’s address have drawn attention to the case.

While investigating the charges, the police also called on Birla House on Malabar Hill, a tree-lined property where Mahatma Gandhi had stayed when he was in Bombay. The Father of the Nation was assassinated on the premises of a New Delhi property that shared its name with the Mumbai house and is now known as Gandhi Smriti.

“We have issued a lookout notice against Yash Birla. There is a summons pending. To prevent him from leaving the country secretly, a lookout notice has been issued at all immigration and international borders — land, sea or air,” a police officer said.

Sources close to Yash said the chairman of the Rs 3,000-crore Yash Birla Group was in Nashik with his family and would present himself before the police soon.

Yash used to be popular in Mumbai’s socialite circles and is known for his tattoos, muscles and designer rags — unlike his cousin and leading industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla who usually keeps a low profile.

Rajvardhan Sinha, additional commissioner, economic offences wing (EOW), said till date, 28 investors had approached the police saying they had been cheated of Rs 20 crore. “Our teams are carrying out searches, including at the office of Birla Power Solutions and the residences of its directors.”

The 28 include the Somani Memorial Trust, the first to file an FIR in Mumbai in December. Earlier, in August, a Delhi-based businessman, Ashok Thapar, who heads the Thapar Group of real estate, had filed a complaint with Greater Kailash police saying he had been defrauded of Rs 10 crore.

The Mumbai FIR says that in February 2012, the victims had invested in Birla Power Solutions in a fixed deposit scheme that promised a 10.75 per cent return after a year.

“Over Rs 300 crore was collected and the dues are over Rs 57 crore. When the investors did not get either their returns or investment amount till March 2013, they panicked and started contacting the company,” Sinha said.

“They (company officials) did not respond. Some senior officials, who were part of the board of directors at the time of floating the scheme, have resigned. The new directors did not speak to the investors and then they started registering police complaints.”

After the arrest of group CFO P.V.R. Murthy earlier this week, the EOW had carried out searches at seven of Yash’s properties in Mumbai on January 25, including Birla House.

Neither Yash, nor his family, was at home. Birla House staff said the tycoon, his wife Avantika and their three children had not been home for some days. The police then decided to issue the lookout circular.

The notice comes weeks after the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested a group company president for being in possession of cocaine after tax sleuths had stumbled upon the contraband during a search at company offices. Anant Vardhan Pathak is now out on bail.