THANE: Thane Police in Maharashtra are in the process of issuing lookout notices against owners of the Goodwin jewellery chain which shut its outlets and allegedly cheated customers who invested in its gold and other schemes, officials said on Monday.
The police in neighbouring Palghar district on Monday also booked the jewellery firm owners under the Maharashtra Protection of Interests of Depositors in Financial Establishments (MPID) Act, which has provisions for stringent action against those cheating customers.
As investors gathered outside some of the closed outlets in Thane and Palghar to seek refund of their investments, a video went viral on social media platforms in which the jewellery chain owners were purportedly seen assuring that they have not run away and will return the money of the customers.
They were also seen urging customers to have "faith" in them. "We are also examining the video," senior inspector S P Aahera, from Dombivali police station in Thane, said.
The Goodwin Jewellers chain shut its outlets in Thane, Palghar and Mumbai region a couple of days before Diwali, leaving hundreds of people, who had invested in their gold and fixed deposit schemes, in the lurch.
Several people who had kept gold with the jewellers, apart from participating in their other fixed deposit and investment schemes, found the outlets closed during the festival time when they were expecting disbursal of some of the promised returns, another police official said.
The firm's owners and whole-time directors, A M Sunilkumar and A M Sudheshkumar, hailing from Kerala, were untraceable since then, he said.
"A process is underway to issue lookout notices against the jewellery chain owners to ensure they don't escape from the country," Aahera said.
The case may be transferred to Thane Police's Economic Offences Wing as the fraud could be running into several crores, another official said.
As hundreds of people thronged police stations in their respective areas to lodge complaints, the Palghar police booked the jewellery chain owners under the MPID Act.
"We have sealed a shop of Goodwin jewellers in Vasai (Palghar) for further action.
We have invoked provisions of the MPID Act against the jewellery company owners as hundreds of investors have been affected," said Manickpur police station's assistant inspector Sudhir Zahirkar.
Earlier, the first case against the jewellery chain was filed in Dombivali on Saturday under Indian Penal Code Section 420 (cheating), another police official said.
The Goodwin Group has outlets in Vashi (Navi Mumbai), Thane city, Dombivali, Ambernath, Mira Road (Thane district), Chembur (Mumbai), Chinchwad, Bund Garden and Pimpri (Pune), besides Thrissur in Kerala.
Since the closure of the Goodwin outlets last week, angry investors, ranging from the middle class to lower-income groups like autorickshaw drivers and domestic help, have been gathering outside the jewellery stores in a desperate bid to get their money back.
They have also been asking the police about progress made in the probe and on chances of getting their hard-earned money back.
As per the firm's website, Goodwin started manufacturing jewellery in 1992 in Thrissur, and stepped into the wholesale business of jewellery in 1995. It entered the Mumbai market in 2004.
The company was founded by A G Mohanan, who later became its chairman emeritus and handed over the daily operations to his sons Sunilkumar and Sudheeshkumar.