A week after the Punjab government transferred the investigation into the multi-crore Pearls Group chit fund scam to the state vigilance bureau (VB), the department chief has formed a seven-member special investigation team (SIT) for the probe.
The SIT will probe two FIRs related to the scam registered in Ferozepur in 2020 and the state crime police station, Mohali, in 2023.
The Pearls Group had allegedly cheated over 5 crore people across the country, including thousands of investors from Punjab, on the pretext of investing money in various schemes of the group. Most of the victims of the scam are from the Malwa belt of Punjab, which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept during the 2022 polls. It was one of the main poll issues during the assembly campaign.
VB chief director Varinder Kumar issued the orders for the formation of the SIT under the supervision of VB director Rahul. The other members of the SIT comprise VB joint director Kanwaldeep Singh, VB Mohali SSP Daljit Singh Rana, DSPs Salimudin and Navdeep Singh, inspectors Mohit Dhawan and Madhavi Kalyan.
The entire staff of VB in the state has been directed to provide all the needed support to the SIT for investigation.
In 2016, the Supreme Court appointed a committee headed by former chief justice of India RM Lodha to sell properties of the group. In 2017, the committee told the apex court that the group’s total liability was ₹80,000 crore, but its properties were worth ₹7,600 crore. The money was collected by the Nirmal Singh Bhangoo-managed group through its two companies, Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited and Pearls Golden Forest Limited, in Ponzi schemes to develop agricultural land. However, the funds were diverted into the real estate business.