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Duped with tower ruse

Tamluk, June 29: At least 20 people in Haldia have alleged that a group of six persons duped them of Rs 1 crore after promising monthly rents for their plots and rooftops for installation of mobile towers.

The apparent victims — from traders to hotel owners to private firm employees — said the group had in January last year announced over a public address system that their company, Global Connecting India, had got a contract from BSNL to install mobile phone towers across Haldia.

The group allegedly promised that the private company would give between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh to those leasing out their plots or rooftops for the towers, but added that those willing would have to deposit between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh with it as “processing fee”.

BSNL denied it had anything to do with the “promises”.

The Global Connecting India officials, who had put up in a Haldia hotel for a few weeks, had allegedly said the processing fee would be refunded and had also promised jobs for two members of each family in their firm.

“The processing fee was decided according to the plots or rooftops we were leasing out. We gave the money to them, thinking that we will get back the amount in addition to the price for our plots. They left Haldia after a few weeks. But there was hardly any work done after that. We waited for months and lodged several police complaints, but to no avail,” said Ashok Kumar Acharya, 42, a resident of Durgachak at whose hotel the six had put up.

The hotel owner said he and the other duped people met subdivisional police officer C. Ghosh last week and organised a sit-in outside the local Durgachak police station demanding that the six be arrested soon.

While Acharya had deposited Rs 4 lakh, trader Rajendra Prasad Baitalik, 47, had given them Rs 3 lakh after selling his wife’s jewellery.

“The total amount they took from people of Haldia would be at least Rs 1 crore,” Acharya said.

According to Ashok Kumar Samanta, a private firm employee who said he was duped of Rs 70,000, the six had told him that their company had offices in Barasat in North 24-Parganas and Sector V in Salt Lake.

“When we went to the addresses given to us, we found that no such company existed,” Samanta said.

The additional district superintendent of police in Haldia, Amitava Maity, said the police had started an investigation on the basis of the written complaints.