Highrich scam: Promoter couple to appear before ED on Feb 19

Highrich Online Shoppe Private Limited's promoter couple Sreena Prathapan and K D Prathapan. Photo: Facebook/@sreena.prathapan.9

Kochi: Twenty days after reportedly fleeing an investigation by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED), promoter couple of scam-hit Highrich Online Shoppe Private Limited Sreena Prathapan and Kolatt Dasan Prathapan agreed to appear before the investigating officer on February 19.

The couple's counsel made the submission to cooperate with the investigation before a Special Court hearing money laundering cases in Kochi on Monday, February 12, according to court documents.

ED's Special Public Prosecutor M J Santhosh told the court that the couple had earlier failed to appear before the investigation officer despite a notice being served on them.

The Prathapans are accused of duping people of crores of rupees by allegedly running a pyramid scheme under the garb of an online retail store.

A pyramid scheme is an illegal investment scheme where each member recruits two new persons and their investment is used to pay early investors.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly on January 29 that Highrich illegally raised Rs 3,141.34 crore from the public. Depositors who were duped have filed cases against the couple in various police stations under the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Scheme (BUDS) Act. The highest number of cases are filed at Cherpu Police in Thrissur district.

On January 23, the couple gave the central agency a slip when a team of its officials reached Cherpu to search their house and offices. The following day, that is on January 24, the couple filed an anticipatory bail application at the Special Court hearing cases registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), in Kochi.

On January 30, ED submitted its counter-affidavit opposing the bail petition. The couple's counsel sought time to respond to the affidavit.

On Monday, the special recorded the submissions of the accused and the ED. "Considering the fact that the investigation officer issued summons... and also the readiness on the part of the petitioner to appear before the investigation officer, they are directed to appear before the investigation officer on February 19," ruled the court, and posted the next hearing on the anticipatory bail petition to February 20.

Meanwhile, the Prathapans moved the High Court in the first week of February seeking to quash the FIRs registered against them at Cherpu Police Station under the BUDS Act. The ED is not a party to the case. The state government has sought time to respond, said a court official.

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