ED attaches assets worth Rs 4,109 Cr in Agri Gold Ponzi scheme case
The ED has attached properties worth Rs 4,109 crore spread across various states in a money-laundering case linked to an alleged Ponzi scheme, the agency said on Thursday.
The case pertains to the Agri Gold Group of Companies. Three promoters of the group were arrested by the central agency on Tuesday.
"The attached assets include 2,809 landed properties, Haailand Amusement Park in the name of Arka Leisure and Entertainments Private Limited in Andhra Pradesh (spread over 48 acres) and shares of various companies, plants and machinery," the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said in a statement on Thursday.
The assets attached provisionally under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) are located in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
The accused can appeal against the ED order before the Adjudicating Authority of the PMLA within six months.
The ED initiated a probe into the matter after going through various police FIRs filed against the accused in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka for allegedly duping over 32 lakh investors after funds worth Rs 6,380 crore were collected from them.
The "main accused" are Avva Venkata Rama Rao, Avva Venkata S Narayana Rao and Avva Hema Sundara Vara Prasad -- the promoters of the Agri Gold Group of Companies who have been arrested by the ED.
The agency initiated the probe against the accused after going through various police FIRs filed against them in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.
Investors from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Chhattisgarh were also duped through the Ponzi scheme, it had said.
"The scam was perpetrated by Avva Venkata Rama Rao through the Agri Gold Group of Companies. He had earlier worked in the Golden Forest CIS (collective investment scheme) fraud and having learnt the tricks of the trade in that scheme, had hatched a well-planned conspiracy.
"He, along with his seven brothers and associates, set up more than 150 companies and started collecting deposits from the general public with a promise of providing developed plots/farm lands or withdrawal at a high rate of return on maturity/pre-term," the agency had said.
It alleged that the accused "engaged" thousands of commission agents to lure people with various schemes for a hefty commission and managed to collect Rs 6,380 crore from a total of 32,02,628 investor accounts.
"In the end, the gullible investors neither got plots nor could recover their deposits. The group collected deposits illegally from across the country," the ED alleged.
The agency said the Agri Gold Group of Companies "did not obtain permission from the RBI to collect such deposits".
"The SEBI has reported that the business of the Agri Gold Farm Estates India Private Limited (a group company) was nothing but a CIS and ordered the company to stop taking further deposits and return the money to the depositors.
"Instead of complying with the directions of the SEBI in letter and spirit, accused Avva Venkata Rama Rao opened new companies and started collecting deposits in the names of the new companies on the pretext of real estate business with the help of an army of commission agents," it alleged.
The ED said its probe found that the accused "never developed lands sufficient to give plots to all the investors".
It had said Avva Venkata Rama Rao and his family went on a "siphoning spree", illegally diverted the public deposits and invested in myriad verticals and private companies, which were directly owned by their family.
The agency had said the accused "also set up companies abroad" and diverted large amounts of funds to offshore entities.