While investigation into the Rose Valley scam continues, harassed agents are now resorting to protests at the Jantar Mantar here against the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) due to non-repayment of their investments currently seized by the Central agencies. Since the companies’ accounts were frozen, the agents could not pay the return amounts they had promised to investors.
“Our lives have been ruined. We have been sitting here for a week now. The government, the agencies and even the media have turned a blind eye towards us. In 2015, the Calcutta High Court had directed the Central agencies to sell Rose Valley assets and return investors’ money. But we did not receive even a single penny last year,” said Harish Kumar, a resident of Noida, who worked as an agent for Rose Valley. The agents allege that the money in the accounts seized has been transferred into the ED’s bank accounts without even notifying the court, even though that money rightfully belongs to the investors.
After the Supreme Court in May 2014 ordered a probe against 24 chit-fund firms in a Rs 1.2-lakh crore financial scandal, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began ascertaining the total sums stolen from investors. The CBI confirmed that the West Bengal-based Rose Valley group cheated investors to the tune of Rs 17,000 crore, making the chit-fund scam seven times bigger than the Saradha scandal.
The hospitality-to-real estate group robbed millions of investors, most of them from the low-income group, in at least 10 states, including West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, promising exaggerated returns. Rose Valley is one of the largest companies to run Collective Investment Schemes without the approval of SEBI and is said to have more than one crore investors and over 10 lakh agents.
Vinod Kumar Gupta, who hails from Allahabad and worked as an agent for the Rose Valley group, said, “The chairman of the Rose Valley Group of Companies, Gautam Kundu, is locked in jail. We have received no notifications or any statement from the Central agencies that could inform us about what they will do to return our money and how long we have to wait for it. The company was running for 22 years, claiming that that they had won the President’s award and nobody bothered to stop them. Even after the illegal status of the company came to light, the hotels etc., continued to operate. This means that the company was still running on investors’ money.” However, some agents were of the opinion that no operations are being conducted by the company anymore. Attempts made to contact SEBI for this did not elicit any answers.
Meanwhile, several reports have surfaced in various affected states of agents being harassed by investors. Agents protesting at Jantar Mantar said that ever since the scam has seen the light of day, around 200 agents in various states have been physically abused by investors and several have been forced to commit suicide.
“Many people here don’t want to go back home because they can’t face the people whom they convinced to invest in a firm that they thought was genuine. The investors don’t know the company people. They only know us. We are at the receiving end of all the anger. Our families live under continuous threat by investors and we can’t do anything about it. We want our money back,” said Gajender Singh, a Rose Valley agent.