The coronavirus induced lockdown over the past two months has proved to be harrowing for a majority of the victims of the Rs 4,000 crore I-Monetary Advisory (IMA) ponzi scam, with some of them saying they had to depend on others for their day-to-day needs.
After losing all the money in the IMA group entities in 2019, the biggest challenge for the duped investors was survival during the coronavirus related lockdown. Mohammed Mansoor Khan who operated the ponzi scheme in Bengaluru, lured people, proming huge returns.
Besides a large number of Muslims, many Hindus and Christians too invested in the firm, sources said.
A CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe has shown that IMA group entities headed by Mansoor Khan had raised illegal and unauthorised deposits in an alleged dishonest and fraudulent manner from innocent investors to the tune of over Rs 4,000 crore.
"To win the trust of people, Khan gave huge returns initially, which the investors had never expected.
Soon, his firm became very popular and people started investing huge money," said an officer in the Special Investigation Team formed by the then HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government, which had initially probed the case.
Almost 85% of the investors were from Karnataka while others belonged to different parts of the country including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Delhi.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as Salim Basha, a resident of Hubballi, recalled how he coped with the situation during the lockdown.
"I had saved Rs 3 lakh for the marriage of my niece, which I invested in the IMA.I had no inkling that I would be cheated," Basha said.
He said he was not in a position to do the job of even a security guard due to age related ailments while his only son who worked in a small company did not get the salary during the lockdown.
"For the first time in my life I had to depend on others for food," Basha narrated his agony.
The lockdown compounded their woes, he added.
Rajesh Naik and his brother Kishore Naik, who live in Bengaluru, had saved about Rs 50 lakh from their hard earned income.
Instead of investing in banks, mutual funds or post offices, they opted to deposit it with the IMA on the advice of their friend.
"....now we don't have a penny.During the lockdown, we could not pay our house rent despite being threatened by the house owner..," the Naik brothers said.
Another victim, Razia Amin said her family members and relatives had lost approximately Rs 80 lakh which they had invested in the company.
"While I managed to sail through the lockdown smoothly because of my job, some of my relatives who are living in abject poverty led a hand-to-mouth situation.
Arranging two square meals was difficult for them," she recalled.
"Difficulties have now been somewhat minimised with the easing of restrictions," she added.
About 25 people have been arrested in the case including the seven directors of the IMA group.
The Central Bureau of Investigation recently sought permission from the state government to prosecute an IAS officer, two IPS officers, a Karnataka Administrative Service officer and a few other government employees who had misled the government on the IMA case and had given a clean chit to the ponzi scheme.
According to CBI sources,the IAS officer along with two other officers allegedly collected Rs 1.5 crore to hush up the case.
While the probe is on, the victims are clueless whether they would get their money back.
"Whether you hang him (Mansoor Khan) or pardon him is not our concern, we want our money back. He operated his ponzi scheme right under the nose of the government, so the government has to ensure that our money is returned," Salim Basha said.
The case came to light when Mohammed Mansor Khan fled to Dubai, leaving behind a video message, saying he was committing suicide because of "corruption in the state and central governments."
Khan was arrested on July 19 last year on his arrival in New Delhi.
He had allegedly promised returns ranging from 2.5 to 3 per cent per month to the investors.
The Karnataka government had set up a SIT of the police to probe the case before handing it over to the CBI.