NEW DELHI: Speak Asia promoter Ram Sumiran Pal, one of the three masterminds behind a Rs 2,200 crore online marketing fraud, was arrested by the Delhi crime branch on Tuesday. Pal, 37, and his associates duped at least 24 lakh investors in the scam extending to Singapore, Italy and Brazil among others.
The crime branch received an input that Pal, who was hiding in Dehradun, would visit Connaught Place on Monday. A trap was laid and he was arrested. “Pal is the first senior office bearer of Speak Asia to be arrested,” additional commissioner of police (crime) Ravindra Yadav told TOI.
Police are now on the lookout for Pal’s brother Ram Niwas and Manoj Sharma. Pal reportedly told interrogators that he was living with his in-laws in Dehradun since the company shut shop in 2011 and had invested the scam money in real estate. Besides launching construction projects for villas and luxury duplex flats in Dehradun, Pal admitted to buying office and residential spaces in Mumbai, besides agricultural and commercial land in his hometown Shajahanpur, UP, for a luxury hotel.
Pal told police that whenever the heat was on, he fled to Malaysia, boarding the flight from Kathmandu after taking the road and rail route to Nepal.
So far, nearly a dozen FIRs have been registered in different parts of the country against Speak Asia Online. “Teams have been sent to different parts of the country.
The promoters are expected to be arrested soon,” said Yadav. A special team has been formed under ACP Suresh Kaushik “to make further arrests”.
Explaining the modus operandi of the scam, police said Pal and his aides took over or set up multi-level marketing companies registered in foreign countries — Ad-Matrix in Singapore and Seven Rings International in Italy for instance — attracting investments due to their global profile. There were some buyouts in Brazil as well. These were later used to launder money. One such company — Speak Asia in Singapore — was introduced in India in 2010 by the brothers with the help of Manoj Sharma.
“Speak Asia was an online survey marketing company which sold web subscriptions for Rs 11,000 each. The investor had to fill out survey forms for multinational firms for a promised annual payment of Rs 52,000,” said DCP (crime) Kumar Gyanesh, who trailed Pal for three months. “The victim was given a password to open an account on the company’s site and access two survey forms. They were to get Rs 8,000 for completing two forms per month. Besides, the investor could bring in more members and for each membership, claim Rs 1,000 as commission and make money on the inducted member’s survey forms as well.”
After paying a few investors at first, Speak Asia wrapped up its operations in India in mid-2011. By this time, the trio had duped more than 24 lakh investors of an estimated Rs 2, 276 crore. Soon enough, investors filed cases in different states and senior office bearers of the companies went into hiding.