The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has refrozen the accounts of Pearls group of companies, Pearls Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL) and Pearls Golden Forest (PGF), which are accused of being involved in Rs 45,000 crore real estate scam.
Pearls was found involved in "objectionable activity through these accounts" and the money being deposited was allegedly "generated from the ponzi real estate schemes already under scanner", CBI sources said.
The accounts were first frozen earlier this year in February, when CBI had filed an FIR against managing director of PACL Sukhdev Singh and MD of PGF Nirmal Singh Bhangoo. The companies allegedly duped nearly five crore investors across the country through 'collective investment schemes' purportedly for sale and development of agricultural land.
However, Pearls obtained an order of defreezing the bank accounts containing with Rs 108.74 crore from the Delhi High Court. The court, however, transferred Rs 108.74 crore to the Registrar General of Delhi High, and asked Pearls to start afresh the same accounts.
It allowed CBI to refreeze Pearls's accounts again if it found things fishy.
Interestingly, Pearls has a battery of top lawyers, including former law minister Kapil Sibal, defending its case.
"Even after the caution of court, the money being deposited in the accounts was again routed from the collective investment schemes under scanner, so the accounts were frozen again," said a senior CBI official.
When contacted, PACL representatives in its Delhi office confirmed that the accounts were frozen. "The incharge of our legal cell is out of the city and we cannot comment on this officially," said a PACL employee over phone.
The court in its order in May this year had clearly mentioned "in case any objectionable activity is found being carried out in the accounts which is contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court or the law CBI would be at liberty to take action in accordance with the law".
PACL was incorporated in 1996 and saw astounding growth in first few years of its existence with deposits reportedly exceeding Rs 20,000 crore. As reported to the Registrar of Companies PACL raised the money from investment of depositors across the country and later bought land across India.
The company, CBI said, established a vast network of several lakh commission agents, who were being paid hefty commissions – almost 30% of the investment-- for bringing in investors. Also the company would lure customers who would then become its agents.
The CBI investigations have alleged that the company has raised investments by issuing bogus land allotment letters to induce the investors.
"Funds collected from new investors of PACL were used to repay the earlier investors to stave off criminal prosecution," said a senior CBI official.
Sebi, too, had raised concerns over PACL operations. In 1999, Sebi notified Collective Investment Scheme Regulations and asked more than 1,000 companies to wind down and refund investors. Both PACL and PGF were in the list. Later both the companies approached the court.
PACL is into construction, agriculture, tourism, hospitality and electronic media--P7 news channel.