Police have busted an internet scam in which some 650,000 people were lured to invest a total of Rs3,700 crore ($549 million) in a company that promised them returns on merely clicking on web links.
Police on Friday arrested one Anubhav Mittal and two others in Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, for running a pyramid-style scheme and seized more than Rs5 billion ($74 million) from their bank accounts.
Anubhav Mittal, 26, the brain behind Ablaze Info solutions Private Limited, one of India's biggest ever internet scams, and two other ringleaders are now behind bars, and are accused of swindling Rs3,700 crore from nearly 7 lakh gullible investors.
Investigators looking into the company's documents have found that it uses some of the money collected from thousands of investors back to the members in small amounts while the investments would go up exponentially.
The trio ran a series of websites that promised would-be subscribers a chance to earn Rs5 each time they clicked or liked web links sent to their mobile phones, which turn out to be fake, police said.
While investors have paid thousands of rupees into the company's bank accounts to join the scheme, the company distributes some of the proceeds and use the beneficiaries to draw in more investors.
The company running the alleged scam had operated for years, but earned almost all the money over a few months from last August, after it began distributing some of the proceeds, say investigators.
Mittal, a resident of Ghaziabad and a B Tech graduate in computer science, registered his company on 7 September 2010 in Delhi but did not detail his business.
At the time of his arrest, he had 100 employees working at his Noida office.
Mittal, however, has not fallen foul with investors who still see him as a hero.
Back in 2010, Mittal, a resident of Ghaziabad, was just another BTech computer science student, about to graduate from his institute in Greater Noida, when he floated his company.
When police raided the company's head office in Noida city, they found 250 passports of employees and members who had been rewarded with a holiday to Australia.
The company had plans to film the holiday and then post it online as promotional material to lure more subscribers.
Mittal, the alleged mastermind, spent some of the proceeds on houses, cars and celebrity parties.
Police said they are yet to trace most of the money and that several bank employees are believed to be involved.
Anubhav Mittal, considered a genius during his college days, has his Facebook page filled with inspirational video-messages and countless 'likes'.
He also tried to influence investors with flashy cars and birthday bashes with film stars.
Police said while the charges are yet to be framed, Mittal has not also appointed lawyers to defend himself and his company.