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Plea in SC seeking CBI probe into alleged franchise scam

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A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court of India seeking direction for the CBI, ED,and SFIO or an SIT consisting officers of the Enforcement Directorate, Serious Fraud Investigation Office, Economic Offence Wing, and Crime Branch to investigate money laundering, Benami transactions, black money hoarding, fraud including corporate fraud, cheating, mischief, etc. by directors, partners, and beneficiaries of the Westland Trade Private Limited.

The petition has been filed by 38 people who paid money for the alleged fraud franchisee. The company collected Franchisee Fees 3,00,000 INR + 18% GST and Set up a cost of 5000 INR/SQFT and assured payouts: (i) 2% minimum guaranteed income on total setup cost paid by franchisee owner (ii) Store rent 60 INR/SQFT (iii) 10% of sales as commission. The company also assured take-care employee salaries, electricity bills, required licenses to run the store, etc.

The petitioners stated in the plea that “Until March 2020, apart from store-related operational issues, none of us observed any red flag and business was normal. Franchisee Owner payments were made on time and stores which were running were doing decent business and company employees were responsive. But, the issues started from 1 st April 2020 and a lot of things started going wrong. Payment of March 2020, which was due in April, was paid in instalments after rigorous follow up by each of us with the company. March month’s payment was cleared in April and May. In May, a few of us got an email saying that the company is enforcing the Force Majure clause listed in the agreement and there will be no payments for the month of April-May.”

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It is alleged in the petition that the case is a well-planned criminal conspiracy, directors, partners, and employees deceived the petitioners by fraudulently and dishonestly inducing them to deliver their hard-earned money thereby causing injury to not only mind-body and property but also right to trade, life, liberty and dignity, guaranteed under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution and hence, CBI, ED, SFIO probe is essential.

Fake-ghost companies throughout the country are named as following, i.e. (i) Westland Trade Private Limited, 335, Wazirpur, Pataudi Road, Gurugram-122505 (ii) Southland Retail Pvt Ltd, C-50 Sector-65 Noida-201307 (iii) White Blue Retail Pvt Ltd, B40, Sector 64, Noida-201307 (iv) Hyper Supermarket, 311, Info park, TBC, Kaloor, Kochi-682017 (v) Louis Unisex Salon, C-50, Sector-65, Noida-201307 (vi) Franchisee World, E-172, Sector 63, Noida201307; (vii) H Mart, 29-42-26, SBI Colony, Daba Garden, Vishakhapatnam, etc. and victims are also from all over the country.

The petition further states that there are more than 500 victims from across the country and the money have not been laundered only from India but also from foreign countries.

The petitioners seek direction for the CBI to investigate the collusion of ROC staff, bank employees, and politicians in this gigantic scam, for the ED to investigate money laundering, Benami transactions, disproportionate assets, and other economic offenses, committed by the fraudsters involved, for the SFIO to investigate corporate, capital market & forensic fraud, violation of accounting, company, taxation & information technology laws, committed by the fraudsters involved, AND appoint a receiver or forensic auditor and pass appropriate directions for recovery of petitioners’ hard-earned money expeditiously.

-India Legal Bureau

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