The Bengaluru police is in a fix. In their custody is a man who has allegedly duped at least 5000 people, to the tune of Rs 1500 crore. But they cannot arrest him - they have only detained him - because Sachin Naik is not the director of the companies involved in the scam.
In 2012, thousands of people invested anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.2 crore in three real estate companies in Bengaluru. The first, Dreamz Infra India Ltd, was run by Disha Choudhary. The second, Gruh Kalyan, was also run by Disha. The third, TGS, is run by Mandeep Kaur.
The investors were promised their dream homes in Bengaluru, and all of them were shown lands on which these homes would be constructed. But six months on, not one of them got an approved plan from the BBMP.
The investors started getting suspicious, and began asking the companies about the progress of these projects. They were told, repeatedly, that the projects were on track, and that they would get their plans in a couple of weeks. While many hung on to hope as the delays continued, others started demanding a refund of the money they had invested.
The companies promised to give them the refund, and that process dragged on for several months. Finally, a number of people who had applied for refunds got cheques from the three companies. But when they deposited them, all they got was a message from the bank: The cheques had bounced. The total amount of these bounced cheques stood at Rs 50 crore.
Meanwhile, after examining property documents of the plots they were shown in Kundanahalli, it was revealed that the land belonged to the builders and was not registered under the names of the investors. Gradually, these investors, who were mostly middle class workers, pensioners and senior citizens, realised that the builders had no intention of constructing houses.
So, who are Disha Choudhary and Mandeep Kaur?
According to DCP South East, Boralingaiah, â€śMandeep Kaur is the wife of a man called Sachin Naik, who has 51% shares in TGS. Disha Choudhary, meanwhile, is believed to be Sachin Naikâ€™s ex-wife, and while Sachin is not on the board of directors of any of these companies, he owns 51% shares in Dishaâ€™s firms as well.â€ť
And Sachin Naik is believed to be the slippery kingpin of this real estate scam, and years after the racket first came to light, the police have finally managed to detain him.
â€śTogether, they have duped people to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore. Initially, a few investors had filed a complaint with the Madiwala Police in September 2015, and later many more came forward, after which a collective complaint was filed in August 2016,â€ť he added.
It was only in the last two months that the police have managed to arrest all 13 accused in the case, and it has now been handed over to the CID.
The scam before the scam
But for the police to zero in on Sachin Naik was a difficult process. â€śHe is the only big investor in all these companies, but he was never a director,â€ť a senior police official said. â€śSo it took us a while to figure out that Sachin Naik is the same man who was involved in another scam in 2008.â€ť
Back then, he was called Sumanth Kumar Das.
In 2008, Sumanth - and his wife, Esha Sumanth - were the kingpins in the Frontier Group investment scam. Esha is none other than Disha Choudhary.
At Frontier Group, Sumanth and Esha had offered many schemes to investors - like a flat 10% interest per month on deposits, or only 5% interest per month if they wanted to invest in a business partnership. There were also a wide range of investment opportunities, which included malls, beauty salons, spas, travel and so on. Business investments were offered a profit from these ventures, along with interest.
But as months passed, the Commercial Street police started getting complaint after complaint about the same man. â€śAnd at one point, we literally had a queue of people standing outside the station to file a complaint against Frontier Group,â€ť a senior police official said.
While the police searched for Sumanth and Esha, the duo had absconded, and evaded the clutches of the police for several years.
By the time they resurfaced in 2012 with new names and identities, they did not leave a trail for the police to link Sumanth and Esha to Sachin and Disha.
â€śWe suspect that he was also involved in a cheating case in Delhi amounting to Rs 30 lakh, where his name was Yogesh Choudhary,â€ť the police official added.
The cheated investors
While they have been fighting since 2012 to get their money back - or their promised homes - Thousands of investors started protesting in Bengaluru in February this year.
According to Nida, whose husband had invested Rs 10.15 lakh in Dreamz Infra for a house in HBR Layout, Sachin Naik kept promising the investors that the construction would begin soon.
â€śLast time we spoke to him over WhatsApp was just a couple of months back. He said that the construction would begin by January 30, and that society registration would start just a week after that. He also promised that the board of directors of the companies would be changed by January 30 and that the first phase of payment to those who have withdrawn their registration, would be done by February 15. None of this happened and thatâ€™s why we had protested,â€ť Nida said.
Nida and her husband made numerous calls to company officials but to no avail. One fine day in September 2015, a cheque of Rs 9 lakh arrived at Nidaâ€™s house.
â€śSoon after, we received a call from the company telling us not to deposit the cheque yet. But we went ahead and deposited it. It bounced,â€ť she added.
Another investor in the project, Khaleel Ahmed said that a few investors had formed a WhatsApp group, and Sachin Naik was also a part of the group.
â€śWe used to constantly ask him our queries and he always kept pushing the dates. He always asked for more time. But we never got our money back and neither did we get our land. He had also messaged me and said that his team had called around 145 people to those people, who were getting their first round of payment but those cheques also bounced,â€ť Khaleel said.