New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Monday filed a case against an Uttar Pradesh-based businessman, who allegedly duped investors of Rs 15,000 crore through a fake “investment scheme”, taking over 11 cases filed by the state police in the matter.
The scam, it is learnt, allegedly involves a company called Bike Bot that asked investors to put in money on one or several motorcycles with a one-time payment of over Rs 60,000 per bike. The promise was that the motorcycles would be rented out and the investors paid a monthly sum of more than Rs 9,000 in return.
According to sources in the CBI, Bike Bot’s managing director Sanjay Bhati, under arrest since his surrender in 2019, and 14 others promoted the “bike taxi service” as “highly lucrative”, and duped tens of thousands of investors across the country.
The sum of Rs 15,000 crore is mentioned in the CBI FIR, accessed by ThePrint, but the exact calculation behind it is not known yet. The alleged scam amount is higher than that involved in the high-profile Punjab National Bank letter-of-credit fraud allegedly involving diamond traders Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
Bhati and his associates are being probed for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal breach of trust.
CBI sources said people from the Gautam Buddh Nagar district authorities and the Uttar Pradesh Police knew about the alleged scam but “chose to not act”.
In 2019, over 11 FIRs were registered against Bhati and his company by UP Police at the Dadri police station in Gautam Buddh Nagar, which will now be probed by the CBI as one case. There are other FIRs against him too, in different parts of the state.
In June 2019, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) initiated a money laundering investigation based on the 11 Dadri FIRs.
According to sources in the ED, the funds collected by the scheme were used to purchase movable and immovable assets in different names. The ED, sources said, had conducted searches at 12 locations and attached 26 immovable properties and bank deposits worth Rs 103.73 crore.
Speaking to ThePrint, Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Director General of Police Prashant Kumar said, “It is a nationwide scam. Over 60 FIRs have been registered across UP. The UP government had referred the probe to the CBI in this matter because there are many victims involved. CBI will probe the role of officials involved as well. Action will be in accordance with what comes out of the CBI probe.”
The Ponzi scheme
The CBI FIR says Sanjay Bhati, along with his family members, incorporated a company known as Garvit Innovative Promoters Limited (GIPL) in 2010. This is the company named in the UP Police FIRs, besides Bhati.
In 2017, the FIR adds, the accused came up with an investment scheme known as “Bike Bot — The Bike Taxi Powered By GIPL”.
The scheme allegedly required investors to put money in one, three, five, seven, or more bikes, which would be maintained and rented out by the company. The investors were allegedly asked to make a one-time payment of Rs 62,100 per bike.
In return, the FIR states, each investor was promised an EMI of Rs 5,175 per month and a rent of Rs 4,590, for a total monthly payout of Rs 9,765.
“By investing Rs 62,100, the investor was promised a return of Rs 9,765 monthly, which becomes Rs 1,17,180 yearly,” a CBI source said, adding that the returns were to last till the bike remained in service.
The FIR states: “The scheme included a monthly rental bonus @ 5 per cent, matching bonus income of 10 per cent, renewal income, and lastly rewards. Investors were free to attach as many bikes as they desire. Investors were asked to invest money under a multi-level marketing scheme.”
The FIR adds that the company used to enter into an agreement with the investors. To attract more investors, it allegedly took out advertisements saying, “BIKE BOT — THE BIKE TAXI POWERED BY GIPL scheme will close very soon” and that people “desirous of availing scheme must deposit money hurriedly”.
“On such advertisements, about 2,00,000 investors invested money,” the FIR says.
The CBI source said “thousands of investors put in their hard-earned money with the company… since the scheme appeared to be highly lucrative”.
In November 2018, the company allegedly floated similar plans for e-bikes, stating that petrol-based two-wheelers were facing registration- and operation-related issues.
The FIR says the alleged fraudulent activity of the company was in the knowledge of the Noida authorities as well as police authorities, who “did not take any action”. “…Rather SSP and SP crime branch pressurised the complainants to withdraw their complaints,” it says.
“From the information received by us, not just officials from Noida authorities were involved in this scam, but also policemen, including senior officers. We have taken over all the FIRs that were registered across UP and are now probing the matter,” a senior CBI officer said.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)