BENGALURU: On Monday, a few days after celebrating Eid, investors in IMA Jewels, a company with varied business interests, including pharma and infrastructure, rushed to the main office in Shivajinagar in a panic.
They had heard an audio clip in which the promoter of the group, Mohammed Mansoor Khan, alleged that Congress MLA Roshan Baig had taken Rs. 400 crore from him, leading him to consider committing suicide.
As panicked investors reached the office, they were met with downed shutters, fuelling their fear further. They had been on edge for a few months as payments for their investments had been halted.
The gathering soon staged a protest, which lasted into the night as police set up counters to take down complaints against the promoter and managing director. By Wednesday, 13,000 complaints had been received. The police formed five special teams to search for four directors, including relatives of Khan. However, they are all absconding. Meanwhile, the state government handed over the investigation to the Central Crime Branch.
The method used by Khan is not new. It has its roots in the practice of ‘Halal Investments’, which targets investors from the Muslim community who are taught that ‘riba’ or usury is haraam in Islam.
Depositors with IMA would be allowed to put in funds upwards of Rs 50,000 with them. After 45 days, the investor would be paid returns on the sum, with an interest rate ranging between 2 and 4 per cent, depending on how much was invested.
Investors were told that they could withdraw their principal amount as and when they wished. In case they chose to keep the money with IMA, they would continue getting interest.
The company used these funds for trading where they could choose from several options, including gold, clothing or infrastructure. The returns from this trade would be monthly for gold, yearly for clothing and bi-annually for construction.
It is estimated that the total amount of money that investors put into Khan's companies is more than Rs. 2000 crores.
Who is Mohammed Mansoor Khan?
IMA or I Monetary Advisory Jewels was launched in 2016 and Khan was its promoter and Managing Director. Khan is believed to have houses in Jayanagar as well as Richmond town in the city. He also launched a second outlet of the jewellery store in Jayanagar in 2018.
One of the sister concerns, IMA Advisory Private Limited, however, describes itself as a 13-year-old company. Investors are spread across the various subsidiaries and returns were being paid for a while before they stopped a few months back.
Khan claims that the IMA group has properties worth Rs 1,050 core in the city.
The group claims to have a clientele of seven thousand.
Some of its board of directors are Nasir Hussain, Naveed Ahmed Nattamkar, Nizammuddin Azeemuddin, Afshan Tabassum, Afsar Pasha and Arshad Khan.
Besides jewellery, Khan also promoted a bullion trading company, Frontline Pharma, several supermarkets and was also planning a mall at Nandidurga Road in the near future. He also has interests in health care services, hypermarkets, infrastructure and real estate development, printing and publishing, and retail sales of gold, silver, diamond and platinum jewellery.
The IMA, on its website, claims to run educational academies for pre-primary to higher secondary school students. Mansoor Khan has reportedly even adopted Government VK Obaidullah School in June 2017, which was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Group companies include IM Digital, IM Trends, IM Entertainment, IM Zayee, IMAIP Bullion and Trading, MMK Institute of Education, IMAW Jewellery, IMA Women Empowerment Business Module. Most of these were set up as limited liability partnerships.
Khan is a graduate of Bangalore University and went to the Measi Institute of Management in Chennai.
Mansoor allegedly knew the top ulemas in the city. Mufti Mohammed Shoaibullah Khan Miftahi has published a booklet in Urdu where he praises IMA Jewels.
Interestingly, he doesn't call his clients 'investors' but he calls them 'partners'. On its website, IMA says that the group has more than 3500 partners under various monetary advisory services built on the Islamic financial system.