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IMA jewels scam: When a short audio clip sent 4,000 investors into a frenzy

FE Online
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It was a rare sight when over 4,000 panic-stricken investors thronged a prominent jewellery showroom in Bengaluru on Tuesday after an audio clip, allegedly from founder-owner and Managing Director of I Monetary Advisory (IMA) jewels Mohammed Mansoor Khan, surfaced online. Only, it wasn’t as simple as it sounds.

In the recorded audio clip, Khan allegedly announced his intention to commit suicide as he was “tired of bribing corrupt politicians and bureaucrats”. The issue took a political turn when Khan claimed that he was being threatened by Congress party MLA R Roshan Baig, who allegedly borrowed Rs 400 crore ahead of Lok Sabha elections 2019. Karnataka BJP unit also tweeted a picture of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy purportedly dining with Khan.

According to the man in the purported audio, his company had suffered a financial setback, compelling him to take such an extreme step. He claimed that he was allegedly threatened by Congress lawmaker Baig who allegedly borrowed a huge sum of Rs 400 crore from him but did not repay it after failing to get a Lok Sabha ticket in the recently-concluded general elections.

Khan purportedly said that instead of returning his money, Baig sent goons to the showroom and to his house and issued death threats, adding that he had to hide away his family in some village. Moreover, he said that he was “tired of bribing corrupt politicians and bureaucrats”. Baig, however, refuted all his claims and put out a series of tweets in his defence.

Khan, who is also into the chit fund business, alleged in the audio clip that he would not be alive by the time the audio clip would reach the public. Taking note of the suicide threat, the Karnataka government constituted a special team to investigate a cheating case against Khan and his firm. An FIR has been registered against Khan but the police have not been able to confirm whether he is dead or alive. However, on Tuesday, a second audio clip apparently from Khan surfaced online claiming that he was very much alive and promised to return the investors’ money by the 15th of this month.

The clip surfaced on social media on Monday morning and within hours, over 3,700 worried investors filed police complaints. A day later, investors from Tumkur, Mandya and other neighbouring districts rushed to join the protests.

The anguished investors said that they were offered halal investment options and were promised returns based on the company’s performance. Depositors maintained that they got some profits in the first few months, but did not receive anything in the last few months. Baig has said in his purported audio that authorities can recover the amount by selling his property worth around Rs 500 crore.