In a case bringing back the memories of the infamous Double Shah, a firm managing fraudulent investment operations in Karachi has vanished with billions of rupees.
After vehement protests by the people cheated, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) jumped into action, and arrested one of the directors of the Nationwala Group of Companies and two accomplices on Friday.
According to FIA sources, 70 of the affected people belong to The News and its associated departments.
The assistant director of the FIA’s Corporate Crime Circle, Chaudhry Sohail Faiz, said that the agency arrested Asad, a director of the Nationwala Group of Companies, Mansoor, who dealt with banks on behalf of the group, and Sami, a sub-agent of The News who worked for Sami Ahmed Rao, a sub-editor at the newspaper and director of the Nationwala Group.
The FIA official said that the arrested suspect, Sami, persuaded 22 other employees of The News to invest in the Nationwala Group. The 22 were among a total of 70 employees of The News and its associated departments who made investment in the group, he said.
The FIA official said Muhammad Abid Husain, a coordinator at The News, was also a director of the group. The names of all the suspects, including Syed Zahid Bukhari, have been placed on the Exit Control List.
The FIA is conducting raids to arrest the suspects, including Muhammad Abid Husain and Sami Ahmed Rao.
The FIA official hoped that the absconding suspects would be arrested soon. Another suspect, Akbar Saeed, was detained by Taimuria police on Thursday.
Thousands of people had invested in the four investment schemes of the Nationwala Group of Companies, run by Syed Zahid Ali. The schemes, like Punjab’s Double Shah, promised doubling the principal investments in one year.
“I had initially invested Rs100,000 in the term deposit scheme of Nationwala on the advice of my relative. The company provided me Rs100,000 after one year with the actual amount remaining with them,” a nurse at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) told The News. “Later, I deposited another Rs700,000 borrowed from my relatives. Now I have been told that the company was a fraud and its owner has run away. I have been ruined.”
The people cheated include dozens of employees of The News, who had invested over Rs100 million in the four different schemes, mostly borrowed from friends and relatives as the company gave huge profits as compared to the government saving schemes and private banks.
The Nationwala Group ran a two-year “lucky committee”; an investment scheme which paid around 50 to 60 percent yearly profits on Rs100,000; another term deposit scheme which doubled the principle amount within a year; and an investment scheme in real estate, one employee of The News said.
Ali had been in business for at least the past seven years. The company regularly published pamphlets, brochures and publicity forms of its different schemes. Its “committee” and investment schemes were popular with office workers and salaried individuals.
The people affected by the “lucky committee” alone stand over 7,500. The people used to submit Rs1,000 per month for two years to get Rs24,000 at the end in addition to standing chance to win various prizes including LCDs, motorcycles, refrigerators and other household accessories
The FIA only became active after hundreds of people approached the Taimuria police, demanding registration of a case against Ali as the Nationwala office had been closed and the owner had escaped with his family.
The people swindled by the fraudsters also gathered outside the FIA Corporate Crime Circle office and Taimuria police station on Friday to compel the law enforcers to get their money back.
“We have been ruined as we had invested all our savings as well as the money borrowed from others in the investment schemes. If we don’t get our money back, many would be compelled to commit suicides to avoid pressure from the lenders,” sobbed Fahim, who claimed to have invested Rs4.2 million in the monthly profit programme.