In a setback to the probe into the Rs 425 crore financial fraud allegedly involving Hong Kong-based multi-level marketing company QNet, the special public prosecutor appointed by the Maharashtra government in the case has quit over "low" remuneration.
Senior lawyer Pradeep Gharat had been appointed special public prosecutor by Maharashtra government and he appeared in all the matters related to the case at the Bombay high court, sessions court and magistrate's court on behalf of the Mumbai Police's Economic Offence Wing (EOW). "Gharat was not happy with the approved professional fees as he feels it (was) very low, going by the sensitivity and seriousness of the case. Gharat feels that other public prosecutors are being paid higher amount than him by the government, though their cases are not as serious as the QNet case," police sources told PTI.
Since his appointment as special PP, Gharat appeared in all the QNet case related matters, including hearings in the sessions court when former world billiards champion Michael Ferreira sought an interim protection from arrest in the case. The next hearing on Ferreira, under scanner for his alleged role in the scam, will come up in second week of June. When contacted, Gharat confirmed that he was not satisfied with fees sanctioned to him and that he will henceforth not appear in the courts on behalf of EOW in connection with the QNet case.
According to sources, Gharat had expressed his dissatisfaction to Home Minister R R Patil in writing. "If Gharat's fees structure is revised, then he is ready to continue in this case," the source added. The complainant in the QNET case, Gurupreet Singh has also written to the Law and Judiciary department of the state informing it that Gharat has resigned mid-way. "The act of resigning midway by the special PP Pradeep Gharat will hamper the case of the state government as there is no one left to defend the state in the Qnet case and will result in failure of justice," Gurupreet wrote.
Gharat has good experience in tackling cases related to multi-level marketings and economic offences and all efforts should be made to retain him in the interest of justice, he said. The EOW had arrested nine team leaders of QNET for allegedly duping investors by offering to sell products like magnetic disks, herbal products and holiday schemes through fraudulent practices. However, they were released on bail.
QNET has also been accused of using the banned binary pyramid business model for their multi-level marketing schemes to entice investors.
An FIR in the case was registered in August last year. The accused have been charged with cheating and forgery under relevant sections of the Prize, Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act 1978.
Bollywood actor Boman Irani's son Danesh was also found to be associated with the firm following which police froze his bank account, blocking the amount of Rs 25 lakh. The EOW has also issued look out notice against QNET founder Vijay Eswaran and his three business associates.