Bengaluru: Hectic drama ensued in the city for the second day on Tuesday when, panicked by an audio clip, more than 4,000 investors trooped to the showroom of I Monetary Advisory (IMA) jewels in Shivajinagar area.
The audio clip in question was allegedly recorded by IMA managing director Mohammed Mansoor Khan, announcing that he was going to end his life since the company had suffered a financial setback.
Addressed to the city police commissioner, the man in the purported audio also claims he was threatened by Congress MLA Roshan Baig, who allegedly borrowed Rs 400 crore from him but did not repay the same after he failed to get a ticket for the recently held Lok Sabha elections.
"I worked for 12-13 years to build this company. There is corruption at state and central level. We have to bribe bureaucrats and politicians… Roshan Baig did not return the money, but sent rowdies to the store and my home, giving death threats. I had to hide my family in some village," Khan purportedly said in the clip.
He also allegedly gave his location as south Bangalore, adding that he would not be alive by the time the audio reaches the public and that the “police” can sell off his “wealth” worth Rs 500 crore and repay the investors.
The clip surfaced on social media on Monday morning and within hours, 3,700 worried investors had filed police complaints. On Tuesday, investors from Tumkur, Mandya and other neighboring districts rushed to join the protests.
While there has been no confirmation that the voice in the clip belonged to Khan, the lack of a statement or reaction from the company has fuelled the tension.
Investors say that they were promised interest based on the company's performance and used to receive profits in the first few months, but have not received anything for the last few months.
Investors queuing up outside the showroom, where police officials were taking down their complaints, said they had all invested different amounts and were offered varying returns, all "based on the company's performance".
"I had invested Rs 5 lakh in IMA after selling all that I had. They promised me 3% profit. Initially, I used to receive the money every month, but I haven't been getting anything for the last few months. I live in a rented place now," said Basheer Ahmed, an auto driver.
Sayed, 35, who was a regular customer at the showroom said he had also helped three of his friends to invest in the company.
Noor Khuteja, a 42-year-old widow, broke down saying she had invested Rs 2.5 lakh a month ago to save up for her daughter's wedding, which is in six months’ time.
An FIR has been lodged against Khan under sections 406 and 420 of the IPC, but police have not been able to confirm whether he is dead or alive. Lookout notices have been issued for Khan at railway stations and airports.
The issue took a political turn with the state BJP tweeting a picture of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy purportedly dining with Khan.
Muslim leaders, led by state minister Zameer Ahmed, met the CM, requesting speedy investigation, while Home Minister MB Patil met senior police officials.
The CM later tweeted that the probe had been handed over to a special investigation team.
Considering the seriousness of the #IMAJewels fraud, the inquiry has been handed over to a special investigation team and instructions regarding this have been given to the DGP.— CM of Karnataka (@CMofKarnataka) June 11, 2019
“It is a limited company wherein every investor is a shareholder whatever be the amount. Accordingly, they trade it into gold. There has been malpractice. We have taken it very seriously,” Patil said.
“I doubt the veracity of the audio clip as this is the second time that my name is being linked to IMA’s financial transactions,” a report in Times of India quoted Baig as saying. “On June 1, a message on WhatsApp said I would stand guarantee for investments made in IMA company and that I would safeguard returns.”
(With inputs from Reethu Rajpurohit)