It has happened once again. A group of cheats have run away with crores deposited by a number of people in Margao. The modus operandi was the same as those of scores of absconding ‘managers’ and ‘officers’ of ‘companies’
that set up offices in Panaji, Margao and other cities of Goa, promised to get people far higher returns than banks could ever give, collected huge amounts and made good their escape. On Thursday, in the latest case, the depositors in Margao discovered that the office of the finance company was closed, and there was no ‘officer’ or ‘employee’ of the company to be tracked down anywhere to answer their queries.
The question is: who to blame? Aren’t the depositors primarily responsible for their own loss? Why did they trust a company whose credentials were dubious? The most deceptive part of the criminals who come and set up such a company in a town is their behaviour. They are so accomplished, so glib, so hardened, so artful that ordinary people fall in their trap, and they are able to lure them to part with their money in the hope of getting high returns. They work on the fantasy nerve of people. How much can the police help such gullible people? How can anyone protect people who are ready to give money in deposit to companies run by people they have not heard of?
Usually, such fraudulent companies work through agents who are local people. They give these agents a good commission. It is these agents who become the face of the fraudulent gang, and it is on the assurance of these agents, who are known to people, that depositors are lured. It had happened with the scores of non-banking finance companies that set up offices in the past. They recruited agents who sold the fraudulent schemes to their relations, acquaintances and friends. Some of the agents perhaps knew that they were working for fraudulent gangs, but decided that they could always get away by saying they were merely agents. And that is exactly what happened. After the fraudulent gangs disappeared with huge deposits, and complaints were filed with the police by the victims, the authorities interrogated the agents. But ultimately nothing happened to them, as they pleaded not guilty. The same thing is going to happen in this case.
It is bizarre to think that despite such cheating being very common, there are Goans out there who are waiting to be cheated. It is time now for the Goans to wake up and not put in money but only with an established and credentialed financial institution.
Of course, that does not absolve the authorities of their responsibilities. How can authorities allow fraudulent finance companies to function in the first place? It is not just companies that set up offices to collect deposits from unsuspecting people. Financial crime can be of several types. A company can offer loans against property mortgage. They have their rules and regulations like any established finance company. People approach them for loans. They are asked to make a down payment of 5 per cent or so to be eligible for loan. Loan is sanctioned. The next day, there is nobody in the office. The managers and officers are untraceable. Their mobiles go out of access.
Here is an actual case: “My name is Mahadev (name changed). I was in financial crunch. I applied for personal loan from a private finance company. They asked for all my details and documents which I provided. They asked me to deposit `15,000 as processing fees and stamp duties, which I deposited in the account they mentioned. They sanctioned me a loan of `3 lakh. They issued me a sanction letter. After that they asked me to deposit `10,000 more as expense charges, which also I did. I never realized that after that the fellows would stop responding to me.”
Only recently, a young couple, both of them from middle class background, was arrested for defrauding thousands of depositors in different cities. They purchased a number of properties across the country, and had even a villa in Goa. The arrest and detection record in financial crime cases are however not very good in any state. Gangsters and cheats are able to carry out fraudulent activities without fear of being caught while doing it, because police do not act until complaints come to them. And complaints come to them only after the criminals have decamped. Tracking down criminals who have done crime in one state is not very easy in another state, as it involves police bureaucracy. The task is made even more difficult with the fraudsters changing their disguise in another state, just as the couple caught recently used to do. Who knows the criminals who cheated the large number of Margao traders and youth in the latest case might soon operate in another disguise in another state to dupe people there.