ED attaches ₹33 cr. of Popular Finance group

Depositors cheated to the tune of ₹1,000 cr.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached more assets worth ₹33.84 crore of the Popular Finance group, Kerala, and its promoters under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 in a cheating case.

The attached assets include 11 immovable properties consisting of land and building in Kerala; gold weighing 11.85 kg pledged by the public, which was re-pledged in the name of the promoters and staff of Popular Finance group; 19 fixed deposits of the promoters; cash of ₹3.79 crore; balances in 208 bank accounts of the Popular Finance group entities and its promoters; and 291 treasury deposit accounts.

A pressnote issued by the agency said it had initiated money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR registered by Kerala Police under Sections of IPC, 1860. As per the more than 1,300 FIRs registered in various districts, about 3,000 depositors had been cheated to the tune of around ₹1,000 crore.

The money laundering investigation carried out so far had revealed that Popular Finance and its allied entities are a family-controlled business and Thomas Daniel and Rinu Mariam Thomas were controlling the entire business, spread across 270 branches in Kerala and other States. The deposits mobilised from the general public were illegal and without any statutory permission from any regulatory agencies such as the Reserve Bank of India.

The ED found that the deposits mobilised by promising high interest rates, had been illegally utilised for purchase of properties and luxury cars, parked as fixed deposits in the name of family members and remitted abroad for non-viable and sham business enterprises. The company had no viable business to sustain the promise of higher interest to depositors. The gold pledged by the general public were re-pledged for availing themselves of loans and the loan proceeds routed to the personal accounts of the family.

In August, the ED had arrested Thomas Daniel and Rinu Mariam Thomas for their role in disposing of the proceeds of crime. Thomas Daniel is currently under judicial custody. Subsequently, the agency had attached assets worth ₹31.16 crore of the Popular Finance group. With the present action against the company, the total attachment in the case has touched ₹65 crore.

The pressnote said the case was being investigated further.

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