The Tirunelveli-based loan racket accused of abducting a Muvattupuzha-based contractor and his chartered accountant for a ransom of ₹1.05 crore followed an intricate modus operandi weaving a maze of fictitious identities and forged documents, besides deploying coercive tactics to cheat their countless victims, according to investigators.
The arrest of Natesan, 47, and Rajesh Pandian, 26, of Tirunelveli, by the Ernakulam Rural Crime Branch after months-long of operation, including in disguise, may mark just a start of what threatens to be a long drawn-out investigation. Vivek Kumar, District Police Chief (Ernakulam Rural), had shifted the case from the Muvattupuzha police, who registered the complaint by the contractor, to the Crime Branch considering the enormity of the crime.
As per the first information report (FIR) registered by the Muvattupuzha police, there were 11 accused, which means nine more accused remain to be nabbed. The police have now realised that the accused had assumed fictitious names and identities in their interactions with victims. For instance, of the two arrested, Natesan was named in the FIR by the complainant as Rajendran. The police remain apprehensive that the remaining accused could also have followed a similar script.
“It has now emerged that the racket had cheated several victims across the country. One such Uttar Pradesh-based victim, who reportedly lost ₹9 crore, is known to have taken his own life. Another party from Palakkad had a narrow escape after they backed out when asked to pay in cash ₹8 crore for registering the loan agreement. The party was looking for a loan to set up a medical college in Tamil Nadu,” said police sources.
The racket is suspected to have made a killing during the pandemic when financial crunch was the order all round. An online advertisement blitzkrieg coupled with the deployment of over 100 agents were used to attract potential victims in need of huge funds. The racket never agreed to lend anything less than ₹100 crore.
The victims were reportedly told that the funds being part of a stash of black money was being lent at a reasonable interest rate of 8% to convert it into ‘white.’ The loan was promised only based on creditworthiness and against collateral security.
“That they insisted on transferring funds only through the bank and the elaborate procedures they followed including collection of documents like cheques, promissory notes, and title deeds further instilled trust in the unsuspecting victims,” said sources.
The registration of documents was held invariably in Tirunelveli where the racket is believed to have considerable clout. After making the borrowers sign what they were made to believe denoted the completion of registration and flaunting the fake demand draft for the loan amount, the fraudsters then demanded registration fee, which comes to 2% of the total deal, in cash.
It is at this point some victims tried to back out at which the accused resorted to scare tactics, including abduction.