CHEATED: Victims of the Saradha Finance scam in West Bengal where thousands have been cheated of their hard earned savings.

By Arvind Pinto

There are several co-operative banks and credit societies which will not only pick your pocket but put you in debt. Before of companies which offer very high rates of return or instant loans on WhatsApp and online…

GOA is a paradise for many Indians and foreigners who come here to enjoy the sun, sand and surf, but few know that it is also a paradise for crooks down the decades. Many of us may remember how the famous conman and serial killer Charles Sobhraj managed to get “lost” in Goa, but was finally caught by Inspector Madhukar Zende from the then Bombay Police at the O’Coqueiro restaurant at Porvorim. Even today O Coquiero at the Porvorim junction in Goa is famous because of the dramatic manner in which Charles Sobhraj was arrested here on April 7, 1986.
Goa is still a land of villages where many people live with modest means. It is in fact the ideal place for smart crooks who sell get rich quick schemes called by a variety of names – Ponzi schemes or blade companies. These pseudo companies are run by smooth talking salesmen who sell innocent Goans dreams of how they may become rich, offering them interest rates which they could never earn in banks.
How many of us have heard of Charles Ponzi? He is the man after whom many of these scam schemes are named – Ponzi schemes. Charles Ponzi was of Italian origin and had emigrated to the USA, after having squandered away his parent’s wealth in Italy. Charles Ponzi loved the good life — wealth, clubs, wine and women. However, he came to the US with no money, having spent the 200 dollars that his parents had given him during the long voyage from Italy to the US. Arriving to the New World he started working in a bank and in 1920 came up with his own get rich scheme which promised unsuspecting Bostonians a 50% interest rate to those who invested money in his scheme, he promised to double their money within 90 days!
Many of those who invested in Charles Ponzi’s scheme had hoped to double their money; it was a dream which would have been realized if Charles Ponzi had ensured that their money was invested wisely. However, Charles Ponzi was so caught up with the management of the monies that were flowing into his scheme, that he had little time to really grow the investments, resulting in the eventual crash of the scheme in which all his investors lost their money
I REMEMBER one such scheme in Goa from the time I was working there in 1996. Information was received of a rather young couple who were agents for a larger Ponzi operator in Belgaum. The role of the couple was to enlist Goans to join the scheme, with interests ranging from 25 to 30%. There were both cash and gifts to be received on joining the scheme and the early birds in fact received the promised interest. However, many of them were persuaded to re-invest their money with the promise of doubling their original investment. This couple were merely collecting agents. But after a few months their handler from across the border had disappeared and the angry investors found that they had lost their principal, not to talk about their dreams of the inflated interest promised to them!
A Ponzi scheme is different regarding some of the pyramid schemes that are in operation currently. One such pyramid scheme is called Amway where one may become a member by paying an initial investment. This member is required to recruit other members to build up a pyramid; whereby the original members recoup their investment. However, the pyramid is unable to sustain itself and it crashes with all members losing their investment. Many such schemes have started and failed in Goa!
Last year the Goan police busted a scheme in Goa called Dreams2 Reality. This scheme running from an office at Patto, Panaji offered interest at the rate of 3% per day. Investors gave deposits ranging from Rs10,000 to Rs5,00,000 lakh and were promised lavish gifts that included air trips to Goa, with hotel stays and a chance to earn a fortune gambling aboard Goa’s now famous casinos.
TALKING about Goa’s casinos there are several of them which promise you a discounted entry into their betting dens. They may also give you tips on how and where to play to ensure that by the end of the night you have little left in your pockets; at times even no small change left to make your way back to your hotel!
Again last year the Mumbai police cracked another scheme where one of the promoters was a Goan police constable. These promoters called themselves Smart Vision Products and would have their “conferences” at five-star hotels, where the select audience would be persuaded to invest a sum of Rs13,000 — the company would retain a marketing fee of Rs3,000 while the remaining Rs10,000 would be invested in a multi-level marketing program that would yield a return of Rs1,00,000 within a period of one-and-a-half month! The greedy investors are still waiting for a return on their investment.
There is an interesting online company called Dream World. This company promises you a holiday to an exotic destination like Spain or Switzerland, if you become a member. You are required to pay a joining fee of Rs25,000 and never mind if you do not have the money, the company arranges a loan for you. You are made to sign some papers for this loan arrangement, papers which you have undoubtedly not read closely before signing. But once the loan repayment begins you find that you have bargained for a payment of double the amount and there is no sight of the proposed holiday! You have been conned!
One of the biggest Indian Ponzi schemes was run by the Saradha group of companies. Run on a national scale by nearly 200 companies, the promoters of the group were until recently in jail and the several thousand investors still to get their dues. Most Goan villagers are still isolated from much of what happens in the cities. Smart operators often visit these outlying villages where they would on the guise of exchanging old gold for new, palm off fake or lesser quality gold to the unsuspecting villagers.
MIGRATION into Goa has brought in both the good and the bad business people. While several who have come to Goa have brought with them new skills and talents that have enriched Goan society, there is a small determined band of crooks who have brought with them talents that seek to exploit the human desire to get rich quick! Several of these blade companies thrive on the desire of many people to get rich quickly. For this clan Goa is an ideal paradise!

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