school dropout NRIs in New York duped
Rs 50-crore by investment scam
Their restaurant was an instant hit. Then they sought
investments from NRIs and Americans
KOZHIKODE, MARCH 22, 2005
The Indian Express
Two village school dropouts from Malappuram have
allegedly pulled off a Rs 50-crore investment scam
in New York, swindling scores of NRIs and native
Americans. They were running an ethnic restaurant
Kerala police have decided to seek the Interpols
help to crack the case.
The Crime Branch has arrested 35-year-old Mohemmed
Ali alias Mohemmed Kutty, a green card holder. They
are looking for his senior partner, 45-year-old Shefin
Syed Mohemmed Abdullah.
Police say the suave Kutty had gone to school for
only four years and was a labourer in Malappuram before
migrating to the Gulf 16 years ago.
Abdullah was a cook in Nilambur and was known for
his special biriyani. He, too, had gone to the Gulf
and had eventually managed to get himself a sponsor
to the US. Kutty tagged along and by 1993, the duo
had rented floor space from a Chinese landowner in
Queens Village, Hollid Town, to set out with
their small 15-guest restaurant, the Malabar Palace.
The restaurant was an instant hit with the local
NRI community, and soon began drawing others as well.
Over the years, it grew in size and its owners gained
in stature. This restaurant was a favoured
haunt for many politicians and VIPs going to New York,
with Kutty and Shefin playing eager hosts. This increased
their credibility in the largely Indian expatriate
community, says P. Abdul Hamid, a Circle
Inspector investigating the case.
A few years ago, they began advertising in local
and community publications in New York, seeking investment
to expand the restaurant. And money poured in. They
roped in all kinds of NRIs from nurses to software
geeks to traders to even daily wage earners
and a whole lot of native Americans too,
The duo even issued stamped receipts to investors
and told them the money would be deposited in two
New York banks Citibank and Northfort Bank.
Then, in 1993, Shefin and Kutty handed over the restaurant
to a Malayalee crew to run it till they came back
from vacation, and took a flight home. They never
Tired of waiting, six of their victims, led by Islamuddin
Khan an NRI from UP who had handed them $1,60,000
petitioned the Kerala DGP recently, who later
asked the Crime Branch to probe. Kutty, who the police
say was staying in Indian cities, was caught two days
ago in his village.
After word of Kuttys arrest reached
US, we are now being flooded with scores of petitions
and phone calls, from New York and even other US cities.
It would be sometime before we get an accurate picture,
but it (the scam) already appears to be worth upward
of Rs 50 crore, police said.
Kuttys brother in Malappuram is still a farmhand
and there is no visible sign of his riches here. The
same applies to Abdullah, though the police say they
have found some land deals said to be on his behalf.
The police believe the cash is still stashed somwhere.
But Kuttys interrogation hasnt yielded
too many clues. We hope to have Interpol
in this shortly. That might make a difference,
the police say.