I screamed in court against Choksi and Gitanjali Gems, but nobody heard me back then: cheated franchisee

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 16, 2018 19:26 hrs
Choksi Mallya Modi

52-year-old Digvijay Singh Jadeja is a frustrated man. Obviously, for he has been fighting a futile battle, trying to recover the money he had invested in the dream Mehul Choksi (Nirav Modi's uncle) sold him.

Over five years, Jadeja has also been trying to gain support on a Facebook forum. His posts have received four likes so far, and there is hope that after Nirav Modi and his uncle's record Rs 11400-crore fraud, there will be more likes and comments. But these likes may not bring back the crores that Modi, Choksi and the coterie owe to Jadeja and many others like him and now to the Indian taxpayers too.

"I had screamed in court [Gujarat High Court] pleading with authorities to withhold Choksi's passport. I had told them that this man would abscond like Vijay Mallya did," he said speaking with Sify.com exclusively.

Jadeja claims he paid Rs 36 crore as a franchisee fee to Mehul Choksi's Gitanjali Gems. Choksi's Gitanjali owes the principal plus interest, with the amount working out to Rs 60 crore.

"Choksi owed nearly Rs 9872 crore in loans and had 44 civil and criminal cases pending against him," and hence their passports should have been withheld, Jadeja argues. He explains that the entire amount was purely loans and advances that Choksi and his crony companies took from markets and banks.

Choksi's grand plan to have over 100 stores across the country indeed materialised, but the credit goes to hapless investors such as Jadeja who were paid back in suits that the company slapped on them.

Rajesh Rathi, another investor, who hails from Amravati, too spoke with Sify.com, confirming that the company slapped civil suits on investors who questioned the lack of returns. Rathi invested Rs 5 crore. "I have received legal notice from company [Gitanjali] in which they created false dues around Rs 5 crore on me," explains Rathi.

Jadeja says that there are nearly 100 odd franchises across the country, with investments ranging from Rs 5 crore to over 30 crores, an estimated 800 crores in total who have been left in the lurch in this manner. Where could the money have gone? Property? More Diamonds? Business expansion?

"Paisa saara videshi company main ghusaa diyaa, [All the money is in foreign companies]" he says.

"I have a list of 29 companies that Choksi operated. He showed his foreign companies profitable, and Indian companies in loss to evade taxes and investors money," Jadeja says.

Mehul Choksi, Actress Poonam Dhillon and  Vijay Mallya: Image Courtesy: RacingPulse.in

Jadeja who hails from Bhavnagar, says Choksi operated chit funds, milked wannabe franchisees, and also indulged in insider trading in stock markets, to accumulate his fortune. Gitanjali Gems also raised non-convertible debentures, on which interest has never been paid, he charges.

At the time of writing this story, market-regulator SEBI confirmed that it had launched a probe into trading and disclosure related issues in the matter of Punjab National Bank and Gitanjali Gems in connection with the over Rs 11000-crore banking fraud. There was also news that NSE during July 2013 had decided to debar Gitanjali Gems chief and main promoter Mehul Choksi among others from trading, for securities market violations relating to trading in his company. But Jadeja says, "the SEBI didn't do anything."

At a time when the media has been pegging the heist at Rs 11400-crore, Jadeja says Choksi's swindle alone would be larger than Modi's - "larger than Rs 30000 crore." (Businessman had said as many as 31 banks had been defrauded in a separate accusation).

Explaining about chit funds, he says, "in Bhavnagar alone, the chit fund scam would have been in the range of Rs 2.60 crore. There were nearly 100 other centers working all across India."

Shagun, Tamanna, Suvarna Mangal Laabh, were some of the popular monthly EMI schemes, where retail investors could place their deposits and were promised healthy returns. These schemes named FBSS schemes were run by Gitanjali for retail investors. Franchisees were expected to enrol customers and deposit the money with Gitanjali.

"We had to provide the customers stocks from our existing stock and not from company stock, in turn the company is least bothered to replenish the stock at our stores against the redemption made. We face the ire of the customers and the money is enjoyed by the company," he explained.

Whether Modi and Choksi were assisted politically is a matter of intense debate and it could rock the current taint-free government. But there have been multiple reports that indicates policy makers' didn't give whistle-blowers concerns the due regard. This despite central government and regulators receiving warnings.

  • Hari Prasad, a franchisee investor wrote to the PMO. Result: His reply was forwarded to the registrar of companies, which further negated the entire process.
  • Allahabad Bank's former Director Dinesh Dubey sent a dissent note to the Government and RBI as early as 14 September 2013. Dubey opposed the sanctioning of a Rs 50 crore loan to Choksi and Modi, saying that Choksi must pay back loans of Rs 1500 crore first.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear Jadeja's case on March 5th. But Mr Choksi is not expected. He is on the run. And it is left to legal agencies to present him in court?

Or will we get to see Mr Choksi only on our Tv sets, like Mr Mallya?

Meanwhile, a probable scene from 2020:

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