Bengaluru: The Bengaluru police confirmed a Ponzi scheme on Tuesday that has hit nearly 800 high-profile investors. Among celebrities reeling from the scam are cricketers such as Rahul Dravid, and ace shuttlers like Prakash Padukone and Saina Nehwal.
Vikram Investment Agency, an investment company, allegedly promised these high-profilers 15% returns on their investments. Sports athletes and celebrities were made to sign papers that promised them these returns.
The scam was reported after PR Balaji, owner of Balaji Agarbatthi company, complained of being duped of Rs 12 crore.
Losses so far. According to the Times of India:
- Dravid and his family invested Rs 35 crore. Rahul alone had invested Rs 20 crore. So far, his family has managed to get Rs 20 crore. Family includes wife- Vijeta, brother- Vijay and sister in law - Bhavana Rao.
- Nehwal invested Rs 1.5 crore and got back Rs 75 lakhs
- Karnataka cricketer Avinash Vaidya's name also crops up as an investor.
The victims so far haven't clarified on their investments, but according to police sources, the size of the scam is estimated at Rs 300 crore. There is intense speculation with the police team claiming that 66 complaints have been registered so far. But verification of accounts of Raghavendra Sreenath has led the team to confirm that at least 1776 investors were cheated.
Sreenath, an engineer by qualification, started an investment agency in Yeshwantpur. A second branch followed soon in Banashankari. In his zeal to lure more investors to his agency, Sreenath appointed LIC agents - KC Nagaraj, Narasimha Murthy and Sutram Suresh, a well-connected sports journalist who ran an LIC agency.
Fat payouts were promised to the trio with the condition that they bring in big investors.
Sports journalist Sutram Suresh, who according to his peers was doing a good job, left journalism in 2005 to start an LIC agency. He told his peers that he could earn his salary in a day with the new job. A website run by Sutram Sureshsays he worked with the Times of India for 17 years, and achieved the Top of the Table status as an insurance agent. His website says he is a qualified member of the Million Dollar Round Table, a prestigious association of financial professionals.
A cliched quote on his page, reads, "It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives". Had Sutram Suresh persisted with the low-paid job of a journalist or either with the LIC agency, he may have held his head high.
Sreenath and his accomplices promised returns as high as 20-30% to investors in overseas commodities trading, But instead of commodities, the money was routed to the domestic stock markets. Investors were drawn in, since Sreenath would bring legal papers for investors to sign. These papers mentioned that the investors were promised at least 15% in returns.
The scam went on for eight years, and has ballooned into Rs 300 crores.