Tarak Bajpai refused anticipatory bail, again.
Way back in October of last year, Speak Asia COO Tarak Bajpai and his buddy Rajiv Mehotra (business partner of Speak Asia CEO Manoj Kumar, on the management team of Seven Rings International, listed as a director of Tulsient Technologies (Kumar’s private business) and
“assistant for daily portal operations and incharge of regular pop-ups” guy who was running the Speak Asia website), had applied for anticipatory bail in connection with a First Information Report (30 of 2011, dated 21-06-2011 and lodged in Hyderabad).
Upon hearing the applications in court and the public prosecutors case against the two men, a judge denied the request.
Hoping to try their luck again, even though nothing had changed in the case against Speak Asia and their involvement in the company, on the 30th of December 2011 Bajpai and Mehrotra filed for anticipatory bail in connection with the same FIR.
to grant anticipatory bail to the petitioner in the event of his arrest in Crime in FIR.No. 30 of 2011 dated 21-06-2011 on the file of the respondent police SHO, CID, Hyderabad on any terms and conditions as this Hon’ble Court deems fit and proper in the interest of justice.
Not surprisingly, once again a judge refused to grant the bail application (Bajpai’s CRLP 14089/2011 case was disposed, as was Mehrotra’s CRLP 14088/2011 case).
As per the application itself, based on the evidence presented by the public prosecutor appearing for the CID of Andhra Pradesh, a judge ruled that granting Bajpai and Mehrotra anticipatory bail would not be “in the interest of justice”.
Last we heard, the Mumbai EOW had announced that they had approached the High Court to cancel Bajpai’s bail (he had previously been granted bail under a strict set of conditions).
The EOW claimed that upon being released on bail, Bajpai was ‘avoiding cooperating with the police, and neither appeared before the investigators nor did he furnish the personal surety‘.
The status on this move to have Bajpai’s bail cancelled remains unclear at this time. However it is believed Bajpai remains at large with the EOW officially stating that Bajpai has gone into hiding and that they have no idea where he is.
With Bajpai having originally disappeared back in October upon his original bail release, that puts us at now five months that the EOW claim they haven’t been able to find him.
Regardless of whether this is due to incompetency on the EOW’s part or the effort Speak Asia’s lawyers have put into hiding Bajpai from the police (which we’ve seen before, when AISPA Secretary Ashok Bahirwani went into hiding for 2 months when he thought the EOW wanted to arrest him), an interesting article featured in the Times of India today addressing the issue of missing persons who are wanted in connection to the scams they are involved in.
Titled ‘Change the mindset of cops: HC‘, Rosy Sequiera writes:
“Before we changed the mindset of people, we must change that of the police”, said the Bombay High Court on Thursday while hearing a petition alleging police inaction in tracing a director of Aryarup Tourism and Club Resorts, which has cheated investors in a quick returns scheme.
The observation from a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode followed public prosecutor Pandurang Pol’s remark that during the hearings of scams like Citi Limouzine and Speak Asia, it had been suggested that the police must create public awareness programmes.
The investors’ advocate Nisrin Shinde said the police, including the Economic Offences Wing in Mumbai and Pune, were being negligent in handling the case. She said the directors, including Ravindra Deshmukh, as well as the core team members of the company were shown as absconding. “Deshmukh is the mastermind of this multi-level scam,” said Shinde.
To this, the judges said it was “inconceivable” that the police could not find Deshmukh. “The Mumbai police had good reputation. They were considered next to Scotland Yard. What has happened? Are you controlled by all these people? You can’t trace one man?
If you want, you can trace anyone from anywhere,” said Justice Kanade.
From the looks of it, the case against Aryarup Tourism is solid but, like Speak Asia, those in charge have fled and the EOW can’t track them down.
Ultimately it appears it is the investors who lose out and apart from the fact that some of Speak Asia’s members have petitioned the company and Union of India (an assortment of the government agencies investigating Speak Asia) in the Supreme Court, it would appear that the two cases are strikingly similar.
Ignoring the judge’s frustration at having nobody to hold accountable for the running of the Aryarup Tourism scam, what is perhaps highlighted here is an inherent incapability of the current police system (EOW or otherwise) to properly handle these scams and capture those accountable.
Then of course (specifically with the Speak Asia case) there’s the issue of bail being granted and those who are granted bail going into hiding (aided by high-priced lawyers or otherwise) never to be heard from again.
To date Tarak Bajpai, Rajiv Mehotra, Shaikh Rais Latif, Ravi Janakraj Khanna, Melvin Crasto and Ashish Dandekar have been arrested and released on bail in connection with the Speak Asia scam. With the exception of Dandekar and Crasto, all are confirmed by the EOW to have ignored their bail conditions and have gone into hiding upon release.
Regarding Crasto (President of AISPA) and Dandekar (Regional Director for Speak Asia and acting COO), neither have been publicly seen or heard from since their bail releases late last month. Whether they’ve followed the lead of Speak Asia’s Tarak Bajpai and gone into hiding too remains to be seen.
If you look at Speak Asia’s business model, that the company ran a ponzi scheme between May 2010 and May 2011 is undisputable. Members and employees of Speak Asia will shout and scream that it’s not a ponzi scheme until an Indian court says so, but that defense falls short in that it’s solely the business model that dictates whether or not something is a ponzi scheme or not.
With the ongoing Supreme Court case in which 115 panelists have demanded their money back, any commissions owing and that the police and courts ignore the company was a ponzi scheme and allow it to restart its operations, there appears to be a shift in position as the case progresses.
What was once ‘Speak Asia is absolutely not a ponzi scheme, in India or anywhere else’ has since turned into, as Ashok Bahirwani’s daughter Anju Agarwal put it yesterday, ‘saol satisfies indian law‘.
Along with the apparent ease of which lawyers and multi-million dollar scams are able to hide their operators from the authorities, what we might be looking at here ultimately is not whether or not Speak Asia are a ponzi scheme, but whether or not the Indian legal system is capable of handling the magnitude of some of these scams and bringing those responsible to justice.
An example of some of the absurdity so far surrounding the case is Rajiv Mehrotra being denied anticipatory bail just two days ago, but at the same time the existance of a case yet to be heard where Mehrortra (and four friends) are seeking to have the FIR that started the investigation in AP squashed.
The same FIR a judge has twice ruled that is serious enough that should the AP CID as a resut of their investigation need to arrest Mehrotra, Bajpai and friends, it is “in the interest of justice” that they do so.
The case (CLRP 10782/2011) is set for hearing next Tuesday, the 7th of February.
To date Speak Asia has been linked to money laundering operations across four continents spanning at least six countries. Doing their best to hinder police operations, the company (with the help of lawyers Phoenix Legal) have managed to keep their CEO’s Harendar Kaur and Manoj Kumar in hiding overseas.
Both are wanted for questioning by the authorities and both remain at large in locations unknown – eight months after Speak Asia effectively ceased running its scam and investigations into the company began.
As an observer, the fact that a multi-million dollar scam like Speak Asia can flout the law so openly, severely thwart police investigations at an international and local level and still have the audacity to approach the Indian legal system to squash and any all investigations into the company – after transferring hundreds of US dollars overseas, refusing to co-operate with authorities and having anyone even remotely connected to the company’s management disappear and ignore bail conditions – is nothing short of remarkable.
Remarkable not because it’s admirable, but remarkable in the sense it begs the question: How did this happen?
The next Supreme Court date is in three days time on Monday the 6th of February. As the Supreme Court of India and the country’s various regulatory authorities sit on the verge of either showing its citizens and the world that is capable of dealing with high-profile multi-million dollar scams such as Speak Asia, or that, with enough money at their disposal, those responsible are able to get away with it and repeatedly flout the law and hinder investigations – one would hope common sense will prevail.
A win in the Supreme Court would be a gargantuan victory for ponzi scheme operators everywhere but at the same time, a disasterous blow for the Indian population at large.
How exactly can Indian authorities and the police be expected to police such scams if the highest court in India rules there is no criminal liability or case for management to answer after they’ve run the largest MLM fraud the country has ever seen?
The precedent this case could possibly set in the policing of exisiting and future ponzi schemes in India is almost unimaginable, bearing the utmost in careful consideration from all currently involved.