MALAPPURAM: Hundreds of people in Kerala have come up with complaints that QNET, a direct selling company headquartered in Hong Kong (according to its website qnet.net), cheated each of them of several lakhs of rupees. The people who lost money in this multi-level marketing fraud have created WhatsApp groups to fight together to get their money back and one such group alone has over 250 members. Members of this particular group say they had altogether invested more than Rs 12 crore believing the company’s offer of franchises in their names to sell its products and earn big commissions.
However, most of the investors received some products from a Bengaluru-based company called Vihaan Direct Selling (India) Pvt Ltd in return for their investments, instead of franchise deals. Ashraf Mannarkkad, who had invested Rs 6.9 lakh for a franchise, said he received products worth much less than his actual investment.
“Vihaan sent a bill worth Rs 6.9 lakh to me. They exaggerated the price of each product. I received two watches, among other products. They billed Rs 1.18 lakh for one watch and Rs 1.22 lakh for the other. But I found out that the actual market value of each watch is less than Rs 4,000,” Ashraf said. He said QNET traps investors promising high earnings. The company then asks the investors to fool their friends and relatives in the same way. The company has cheated thousands of people in the state exploiting their helplessness or greed, he added.
Business experts say QNET is a multi-level marketing company and its business model is illegal in India.
“I was working with a logistics company in Saudi Arabia and I lost my job during the first wave of Covid and had to return home. I’m the sole breadwinner of my family, so I had to search for a new job. I informed my friends and relatives about my situation. One of my friends in Kalpakanchery in Malappuram named Mujeeb Rahman lured me into investing in QNET offering high commissions for selling its products. Also, Mujeeb told me the company would give training to sell the products. I first transferred Rs 3.7 lakh to the company’s bank account and gave another Rs 3.3 lakh to Mujeeb directly,” Ashraf said.
Later for investing, Ashraf received parcels — including coffee powder, watches, coconut oil etc twice from Vihaan. “Later, I came to know that the company sent those products for each investment of Rs 6.9 lakh. They also tricked me into signing an agreement that I had purchased those products with my full knowledge. I did not read the agreement, which was in English. Besides, I have only limited knowledge of English since I have studied only up to Class 10,” Ashraf added.
However, after losing money, Ashraf decided not to fool his friends and relatives for the company. Instead, he started tracing the other victims to file complaints against the firm. A Malappuram native who doesn’t want to reveal his name says he lost Rs 9 lakh. “One of my friends, Fayis Muhammed, a native of Chattiparamba in Malappuram, who made me invest in the QNET business, cheated me. I transferred Rs 6.5 lakh to the account number of a senior of Fayis and gave him Rs 2.5 lakh by hand. I had to even pledge my sister’s gold ornaments. After I lost the investment, I had to postpone my sister’s marriage. No one with the firm told me that I would have to recruit more people for QNET to get my investment back and earn more,” he said.
Ashraf says 14 of them sent complaints to Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and DGP Anil Kant a couple of weeks back. It is learnt that several people who had invested in QNET in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Ernakulam have also lodged complaints with senior police officers in their areas. However, complainants say no stern action has been taken so far. The Malappuram SP’s office confirmed that it has received complaints against QNET. “We have already started an investigation into the complaints received from Tirur and Kuttipuram,” said SP Sujith Das.