As the Andhra Pradesh assembly witnessed a fight over the AgriGold scam last week, one of the victims died of cardiac arrest. The Assembly, which was supposed to give assurance tried all possible ways to deviate from the discussion. This time it is not YCP, which is to be blamed, but the ruling party which amidst a serious discussion on AgriGold scam, decided to discuss about Sakshi media house. Instead of minimizing challenges for the sufferers of AgriGold scam, the ruling party challenged the opposition leader. They were using the reel mode communication by using the movie dialogs, and did not heed to the real cries.
The AgriGold Scam
The Vijayawada-Based firm was setup in 1995 as Collective Investment Scheme (CIS) under the chairmanship of Avva Venkata Rama Rao and few others. The firm inducted agents to persuade individuals to invest in the business. The trade which started in the united state of Andhra Pradesh had customer base of 32,02,607 people spread across eight Indian states including Andaman and Nicobar. There are people who invested few thousands to lakhs and crores of rupees.
On the pretext of huge returns, the company ran many businesses like real estates, dairy, resorts and entertainments, finance, plantations and other organisations for 21years. In November 2014, customers and agents gathered after facing grievances like cheque bounce and non-payment of interest. In the same year December, some depositors filed a case against the management alleging fraud and wrongdoings. In a month that is by January 2015, lakhs of people turned up, as they were not getting their money back.
Based on the complaints lodged by the customers, the police registered cases and raided Venkata Rama Rao’s office only to realise that the firm was carrying out its operations without permission from RBI and SEBI. Due to the size of the fraud, the case was given to Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department (AP CID). The State government issued a GO attaching the properties which the company amassed in seven states. The High Court ordered to speed up the investigation process in October 2015. But only in February 2016, the chairman and the Managing director were arrested who were out on conditional bail soon.
The fight started in March 2016 when YCP created ruckus in assembly alleging the lack of proper involvement from the government. In November 2016, with the permission of High court, the CID announced auction of the attached properties identified in Krishna district and Vijayawada scheduled for 27 December 2016. However due to the various reasons the auction did not fetch enough. Out of the 18 accused, the CID has so far arrested six persons and the remaining are yet to be nabbed. In the state of AP, there are 19.52 lakh depositors, of these, 13.83 lakh depositors have deposited less than Rs.20,000/- each, which amounts to Rs.1182.17 Crores.
The Role of AgriGold Agents and Customers Welfare Association:
The AgriGold agents, depositors and staff under the banner AgriGold Agents and Customers Welfare Association, conducted agitations at several places in the State seeking justice. They were even arrested numerous times by the police. These protests were mostly supported by the CPI. The association said over 105 persons had committed suicide since the scandal broke.
In the meantime, a PIL was filed in the High Court alleging that the association represented by its president Ranga Reddy, was openly collecting money from depositors. It suspected that the association was floated by the management of AgriGold with an intention to derail the ongoing auction proceedings in the High Court. However, the CID report denied links between the management and the association but it said, “The All India AgriGold Customers and Agents Welfare Association”, in a deceitful manner, used the name of the HC to gain credibility among depositors and collected about 44.69 lakhs through 410 agents within a short period of one week.
As per the association, there are 19.52 lakh victims in Andhra Pradesh alone and the AgriGold group owes them Rs 3,966 crore. The association started their indefinite hunger strike in March 2017. A delegation met the Chief Minister last week, upon whose assurance the strike was called off.
Brief Note from CID
The is the biggest scam being investigated by the CID. Six cases have been registered on five main accused who were arrested and remanded to judicial custody in Eluru. This includes Chairman AvvaVenkata Rama Rao, MD Avva Venkata Seshu Narayana Rao @ Kumar, Vice President E.S.S.V. Prasad, Director K Ramachandra Rao and another Director P.L.A.Khan. The government had issues 4 GOs, with the list of properties being attached. The High Court has constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice Surya Rao but due to his sudden demise, Justice Seethapathi Rao (Retd.) was appointed in his place. This Committee is taking steps to conduct auction of the attached properties.
Agriculture Minister Pulla Rao’s involvement
Leader of Opposition in Assembly Y S Jaganmohan Reddy alleged that Agriculture Minister Prathipati Pulla Rao had purchased the AgriGold land in January 2015, after the police conducted raids in AgriGold. The YCP chief displayed photocopies of registration papers and purported that Prathipati had purchased the land in the name of his wife Venkayamma. This property was sold by Uday Dinakar, who is one of the directors of the Haailand, which is the property of AgriGold company. He further held that Pulla Rao had allegedly misused his power in transferring the assets in possession of the AgriGold to his wife for a throwaway price. As per the YCP, the AgriGold properties like Haailand property, Yarada property and Atihoya shopping complex were not put for auction.
Who assured what
Chief Minister in his statement on the scam, first announced that the government would give Rs 3 lakh to the families of those AgriGold victims who committed suicide but later he enhanced the same to Rs 5 lakh. He also assured Rs 10 lakh reward to those providing information about the remaining accused. He said that the government would first settle the claims of the small depositors and later of the remaining depositors.
Interacting with the victims, Jaganmohan Reddy ensured compensation of Rs 7 lakh to each family of 105 AgriGold depositors who ended their lives, if his party comes to power in 2019 elections.