Fraud suspect held
Manama, June 23, 2009
A man accused of swindling Bahrain-based Indian investors out of around BD20 million ($53 million) in bogus land deals has been arrested.
Dozens of Indians living in Bahrain have reportedly filed police complaints in India against Crowne Plaza International Hotels and Resorts owner Joseph Chacko.
The company is based in Bangalore and has nothing to do with the Crowne Plaza Bahrain.
Chacko is accused of selling apartments and plots of land to expatriate Indians all over the Gulf, then selling them on without telling them.
The businessman, originally from Kerala, but settled in Bangalore, is also accused of duping poor Indians back home into giving him power of attorney to sell their land - then never paying them.
Apartment owners claim they were never given the proper ownership documents.
Chacko allegedly cheated non-resident Indians (NRIs) around the Gulf out of around BD50 million over the past 10 years.
Investors claim that at least BD20 million was collected from Bahrain, but that many investors are reluctant to come forward.
Chacko was arrested on Wednesday at Kolkata International Airport by the City Crime Branch (CCB) Bangalore and has been remanded in police custody until next Monday for further investigation.
Bangalore police are interrogating him about alleged fraud, following nearly 40 complaints registered in various police stations in the city.
Chacko had first come to Bahrain in 1999 to market properties and then re-visited several times until 2003, said a Bahrain-based investor, who did not want to be named.
'Though the property is presently in our control, we are still to get all the deeds and documents, including the parent deed from Chacko for our property,' he said.
'We have been requesting him for this for several years and the last time I spoke to him was around five months ago.
'Unless we get all the documents, there is always risk of our property being encroached by others.
'Now there is hope that things will be sorted out.'
It is understood Chacko moved from India to Kuwait in 1995 and became an NRI.
He began developing several residential layouts in Bangalore exclusively for NRIs across the Gulf, the UK, the US, South Africa and elsewhere, said sources.
It is thought that there are other investors in Bahrain who have not come forward to complain.
'We have been advertising on and off for people in Bahrain who have been duped by this person to join hands so that we could all move together,' said one investor, who would not be named.
'But we have not been completely successful. So far we have been able to get about 20 people from Bahrain, but there are more and they are not willing to come forward for several reasons.'
He said many more investors were complaining in private, but were not joining the petition to officially file their cases. – TradeArabia News Service