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Plea in Supreme Court seeks CBI, ED & SFIO probe into 'India's biggest franchisee scam'

Detailing a need for an SFIO probe, the plea states that the "petitioners’ hard-earned money has been looted by the fraudsters by creating bogus-ghost companies throughout the country."

Debayan Roy

Thirty eight petitioners claiming to be cheated and duped customers of Westland Trade Private Limited, which floated bogus companies such as Hyper Supermarket, Hyper Mart, Big Mart Super Mart, Louies Salon, Midnight Cafe, Franchisee World, BM Mart, H Mart, S Mart etc., have approached the Supreme Court seeking a CBI, ED and SFIO probe against the company.

The petitioners, through Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay and Ashwani Kumar Dubey, accuse the directors, partners and beneficiaries of the Westland Trade Private Limited of various criminal activities including money laundering, benami transactions, black money hoarding, fraud including corporate fraud, cheating, mischief, forgery, criminal breach of trust, dishonestly inducing delivery of property, cheating by personation, falsification of accounts, concealment of property and dishonest misappropriation of property.

The plea states that the company took Rs 3 lakhs for running a grocery store in May, 2019. It opened stores in Karnataka, Telangana, Goa, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and many other states, according to the petition.

However, in April, this year, the company defaulted in payment, duping about 500 investors.

The plea states that directors of Westland had established bogus companies to create a scam.

"In collusion with ROC and Bank Staff, the fraudsters have registered many fake, bogus & ghost companies and brands viz. Hyper Supermarket, Hyper Mart, Big Mart, Super Mart, Louies Salon, Midnight Cafe, Franchisee World, BM Mart, H Mart and S Mart etc. The ghost Companies claimed to help individuals to start business in retail sector but dishonestly misappropriated and converted petitioners’ hard earned money into black money and benami properties in violation of the contract."

reads the plea.

The petition states that by May 2020, the petitioners started digging more to understand who was actually running the company and "soon a lot of scary information started coming out."

"All email IDs started bouncing back. The registered address was locked and there was no one there. The registered Head Office, which is in Noida, hardly had two people working and they had no idea who the owner or master mind was."

the petitioners state.

Detailing a need for an SFIO probe, the plea states that the "petitioners’ hard earned money have been looted by the fraudsters by creating bogus-ghost companies throughout country."

"It is necessary to state that SFIO has experts from financial sector capital market, accountancy, forensic audit, information technology, company law, taxation law, customs and investigation", the petitioners note.

The petitioners add that a letter for an FIR was addressed to Gurugram police, but no case has been registered in the matter yet.

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