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ED arrests one in Rs 2,200 crore PMLA case

New Delhi, Dec 18, 2021- The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday said that it has arrested Pavitra Pradip Walvekar, the promoter director cum CEO of Kudos Finance and Investment Private Limited, an NBFC company in connection with a prevention of money laundering case.

His arrest was made at Hyderabad by a team of ED officials. The probe agency produced him before a special court and said that he wasn’t needed for further interrogation. After this the court remanded Pavitra to 15 days judicial custody.

The ED has been conducting money laundering investigation against a number of Indian NBFC companies which are in the business of instant personal loans via mobile apps.

The ED has found that various fintech companies backed by Chinese funds have made agreements with these NBFC companies for providing instant personal micro loans of term ranging from 7 days to 14 days.

Ms Kudos NBFC ‘purportedly’ engages FinTech (digital lending partners) Companies as a Service Provider to assist in identifying prospective customers, verifying their eligibility, collection of information/documents, conducting due diligence, collecting pre-disbursement documents, arranging execution of the loan agreement, assisting with collections and recovery of principal and interest payments and attending service requests/product related queries for the retail loans offered by the Company.

Although it is projected that the NBFC is engaging Fintech companies for the above activities, but in reality they are allowing the Fintech companies to misuse the valuable NBFC license of Kudos.

“Ms Kudos has a paltry Net Owned Fund (NOF), but it is taking huge amount as ‘security deposits’ and then opening separate Merchant ID (MID) with payment gateways for each fintech app and then depositing this security in the MID of the respective fintech app,” said an ED official.

Kudos company has no mobile app of its own. It is not involved in the lending business at all. It has miniscule staff and is blindly allowing fintech companies to operate at the back of MOU between self (NBFC) and Fintech Mobile app companies. Thus, the entire lending operation is being done by the fintech app from its own funds. Kudos is only lending its license and the fintech apps are the ones acting like the real NBFCs and doing end to end micro lending and reaping majority of the benefits. In return Kudos is taking a commission without doing any due diligence or hard work.

“Entire decisions regarding fixation of interest rate, processing fee were taken by fintech companies and these companies were operating on the basis of instructions from Chinese beneficial owners. They capture customers’ data by getting access to their mobile contacts, media. In order to obtain more profits and to maintain high recovery rate, their call centres resorted to harsh recovery measures by using abusive language to entire phone list and contacts and misuse of social media privileges. Unable to bear the level of harassment, certain people have committed suicides,” said an ED official.

The official said that at the time of crediting the loan amount, the apps would deduct 15-25 per cent of the amount as processing fee and on the remaining amount they were charging very high interest rate.

“Fund trail investigation done by ED revealed that despite having NOF of only Rs 10 crore, Kudos circulated loans over Rs 2,200 crore in its name and it was entirely funded by 39 fintech companies who are now not responding to summons and have shutdown their operations and are absconding,” said the ED official.

In the entire business, fintech companies have gained a total profit of around Rs 544 crore and Kudos has gained a profit of around Rs 24 crore.

This entire arrangement is in complete violation of the RBI guidelines on NBFCs and thus, the entire profit of Rs 568 crore is nothing but proceeds of crime.

The source of funds with the fintech companies is also suspect and is being investigated.

Despite repeated opportunities, Pavitra Pradip Walvekar was not revealing the real identity and beneficial owners of the 39 apps with whom they were in business for more than a year.

The ED has alleged that instead of cooperating with the investigation, he had been making active attempts to obstruct the free and fair investigation.  (Agency)

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