Confidence tricksters tend to be flamboyant. Sarita Nair and her ‘business associate’, Biju Radhakrishnan, who are facing charges of investment fraud, were apparently no different, according to State police investigators.

They travelled in chauffeur-driven cars, housed their offices in posh areas and met their clients surrounded by impeccably dressed personal aides who followed strict corporate etiquette.

They, arguably, first figured in the State police crime records in 2005 when the Medical College police here arrested them in connection with an advance fee fraud case. The charge against them was that they received Rs. 40 lakh from a builder as “processing charge” for getting him a loan of Rs 20 crore from the Asian Development Bank and later absconded. At the time of the arrest, Sarita Nair had identified herself as Lakshmi Nair and Biju as B.R. Nair. The police then found out that their counterparts in Tamil Nadu had arrested them in 2005 in connection with a wind energy harvesting investment fraud in Coimbatore. They were jailed there for several months. In Coimbatore, Sarita had identified herself to the police as Nandini Nair. In 2011, the partners resurfaced in Kochi and attempted to “bulldoze their way” into business and political circles by inviting politicians, businessmen, and film stars to open the branch offices of their solar energy investment company. The website of the company claimed to have global expertise in lucratively tapping green and renewable sources of energy. The professional salespeople employed by the company used complex scientific jargon to convince scores of citizens to invest in their firm.

Investigators, who spoke to a number of complainants, said the suspect firm promised them “quick and sure returns” and its promoters hinted that they had an elevated social position, which guaranteed them “special access” to top government functionaries.

They gave themselves impressive designations in the firm and claimed to have a high level of expertise in their field.

A senior official said many investors realised too late that the entire operation was a sham. Investors had little access to its accounts, which seemed not to be properly audited.

The company, which claimed to be a global firm, seemed not to have any separate wings for investment management and procurement and use of technology as is the case with genuine businesses. The police said none of the complainants seemed to have done a thorough background check on the firm before investing in it. Neither had they questioned the promoters about their professional experience, past nor future plans of the company. The police were also investigating whether the company had Reserve Bank of India sanction to collect money from the public. Moreover, there could be a money laundering aspect to the entire operation, which needs to be probed, senior officials said.

The police said they suspected that the firm’s promoters ran a ‘ponzi’ scheme, a money chain operation where the deposit of a new investor was used to pay off those who had invested earlier.

The duo had incurred huge debts in their previous operations. They became accused in cheating cases. Investigators said the accused hoped to collect money through the solar energy investment firm to pay off their earlier debts and get acquitted of the financial fraud charges against them by settling the complaints out of court.

But it seems, their plans have come to naught yet again.

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