Crime Branch indicts former IUML MLA, 29 others in Fashion Gold deposit scam

  • Charge sheet in 15 cases being submitted in Kasaragod and Thalassery additional sessions courts in two days
  • Kannur collector submits attachment report to Thalassery court to take over six properties, including houses of M C Kamaruddin and Islamic leader Pookoya Thangal
  • Total liability of 168 complainants comes to Rs 26.15 crore; money will be given first to depositors who did not recoup their money, says Kannur Crime Branch SP
Former MLA MC Kamaruddin. File Photo: Manorama

Kannur: Kerala Police's Crime Branch, investigating the Fashion Gold deposit scam, has named four companies and 26 persons, including former Manjeshwar MLA M C Kamaruddin, as accused in its charge sheets submitted to two courts in Kasaragod and Kannur districts.

"In two days, we will be submitting the charge sheet in 15 cases to Thalassery Additional Sessions Court and Kasaragod Additional Sessions Court," said P P Sadananand, Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch, Kannur.

The charge sheet for another 35 cases is ready and has been sent to the Additional Director General of Police for approval before being submitted to the courts, he said. "The investigation in other cases is also over and in two months the charge sheet will be submitted," he said.

Since September 2020, the Crime Branch has registered 168 cases of cheating after four companies -- Fashion Gold International Pvt Limited, Fashion Ornaments Pvt Limited, Qamar Fashion Gold Pvt Limited, and Nujum Gold Private Limited -- took illegal deposits from the public, promising exorbitant monthly returns of 12 per cent to 14 per cent and started defaulting post demonetisation.

Kamaruddin, who was also the Kasaragod District President of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), was the chairman of the four companies, and IUML and Islamic religious leader T K Pookoya Thangal was the managing director. They are the two prime accused in all 168 cases.

The Crime Branch estimated that the four companies and their promoters owe Rs 26.15 crore to the 168 complainants.

TK Pookoya Thangal

The other accused include Pookoya Thangal's son Hisham Ancharappattil, his nephew Sainul Abid, general managers, store managers, and all the directors of the four companies.

They were charged with cheating, criminal breach of trust, criminal breach of trust by a public servant (Sections 420, 406, and 409 of the Indian Penal Code), and raising money from the public under an unregulated deposit scheme (Section 3 of the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes [BUDS] Act and Section 5 of the Kerala Protection of Interests of Depositors in Financial Establishment Act 2013).

Six properties of the accused attached
The government has initiated steps to attach six properties of the prime accused Kamaruddin and Pookoya Thangal based on the report submitted by Crime Branch SP Sadanandan.

On August 7, Finance Secretary Sanjay M Kaul, the competent authority, ordered the attachment of Fashion Gold's building in Payyannur, two houses of Kamaruddin and Pookoya Thangal, a one-acre prime property of Fashion Gold in Bengaluru, and Fashion Gold's building in Kasaragod, under the BUDS Act. The attachment order was issued after accepting the report of Sadanandan.

Under the Act, the Kannur Collector was entrusted with the responsibility to conduct the hearing on the attachment order and seek the court's approval to make the provisional attachment permanent.

Three weeks ago, the previous collector S Chandrasekar (before he was transferred on October 18) completed the process and submitted a 150-page comprehensive attachment report to Thalassery Additional Session Court, said Sadanandan. "From the depositors' point of view, the collector's step is more important than the charge sheet because it gives them hope of getting their money back," the officer said.

However, the six properties attached may raise only around 30 per cent of the total liabilities of Rs 26.15 crore. "So, priority would be given to newer depositors who have not got their money back from the companies. Their liabilities come to around Rs 18 crore," he said.

The Crime Branch found that the early depositors have recouped their money because of the high returns, said Sadanandan, an expert in financial fraud and author of 'Corporate Deceptions', a book on the various forms of money circulation schemes and economic frauds. Having said that, all complainants are victims of the alleged deposit scam and eligible to get their money back because they are essentially depositors, not investors, he said.

He said the building at Payyannur would fetch at least Rs 6 crore. The jewellery store building at Kasaragod was sold at Rs 3.5 crore to a depositor who had to get Rs 4.5 crore. So, the depositor still had to get Rs 1 crore from Fashion Gold. Except for their ancestral properties, the promoters made several such sales to evade the attachment of properties. "The BUDS Act provides for attachment of such properties. Such sales are considered malafide transfers not commensurate to their real value," said the Superintendent of Police.

Apart from the assets and liabilities of the accused, the Collector's attachment report submitted to the Thalassery court has listed the money trail of the crime, said the officer. "The court has around 120 days to give its opinion on the collector's attachment report," he said.

More depositors come forward after the attachment process
Initially, the Crime Branch had registered 168 FIRs. After the attachment of properties of Fashion Gold and their promoters under the BUDS Act became news, more depositors came forward with their complaints. "In the Collector's attachment report submitted to the Thalassery court, he has included the complaints of 201 persons," said Sadanandan.

After that, the Crime Branch got 63 more complaints taking the total number of FIRs to 263. "We are investigating the new petitions, too," said Sadanandan.

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