Mumbai, Oct 1 (IANS) Former billiards World champion Michael Ferreira and two others were on Saturday remanded to police custody for 13 days in connection with Hong Kong-based marketing company QNet duping around 30,000 small investors.
Ferreira and two others, Malcolm Desai and Maganlal Balaji had surrendered in court on Friday and were remanded to police custody by Special Judge D.P. Surana of Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors Court.
For Ferreira, Friday's development came as a severe blow on the eve of his 78th birthday today (Saturday) though he informed the Special Judge that he was a mere shareholder in the company and was not involved in misleading the investors or defrauding them.
Through his senior counsel Amit Desai and lawyer Sandeep Karnik, Ferreira said that he had even attended QNet's programmes abroad to inspire as a former sports personality and not to sell or promote its products, and he did not receive any commissions or dividends from the company.
The Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai Police has formed a SIT to investigate the estimated Rs.400 crore multi-layered marketing schemes through the master franchise QNet which allegedly left around 30,000 investors in the lurch.
Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat for EOW demanded the police custody of Ferreira on grounds that as the 80 percent shareholder of Vihaar Direct Marketing Selling Ltd, he was a part of the conspiracy.
Arguing against custody, Desai contended that it was VDSL (Vihaan Direct Selling Pvt. Ltd.) which had misled people and Ferreira as a renowned sportsman had given inspirational talks and he did not derive any commissions or dividends for his efforts.
Upholding the EOW's plea, Special Judge Surana said that custodial interrogation was necessary in financial scams to enable the investigators confront the accused with information already furnished or oral statements during interrogation and confronting them with other accused arrested in the case.
The QNet scam first came to light in 2013 when a Mumbai suburban resident Gurpreet S. Anand lodged a complaint alleging the company had duped more than 30,000 investors of around Rs.400 crores by asking them to make upfront payments of Rs. 150,000 each.
The firm used to sell distance-learning packages and biodisks which reportedly provided miraculous cures for major diseases like cancer, chi-pendants, gold articles, herbal products, holiday packages, etc.
A renowned sports personality, Ferreira was honoured with Padma Bhushan, Arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award besides Shiv Chhatrapati Award instituted by the Maharashtra government along with several international accolades and honours.