New Delhi: Four persons, including two Nigerians, have been arrested for allegedly duping an NRI of Rs 43.5 lakh two years ago by selling fake licorice seeds, a perennial herb used as flavouring and sweetener in medicines, candies and tobacco products, police said on Saturday.
38-year-old Narender Sharma alias Rajiv Anand alias Roshan Verma and Gurmeet Kohli alias Rinki, 46, were arrested on Wednesday after receiving complaint from an NRI along with a Bangalore-based businessman, Raghavendra Bhat, about receiving mail about "business opportunity in India" from the accused, they said.
Two mobile phones, packet of dummy money, a sample packet of licorice seed and one laptop were recovered from them. Both of them were identified by the complainant as the same persons, who had taken Rs 43.5 lakh from him in 2010, a senior police official said.
Two of their associates, identified as Moses Ojeaga alias Abbas, 43, and Idowu Osho alias Abdul, both Nigerian nationals, currently residing at Hauz Rani were arrested when they came to deliver packets of licorice seeds to a decoy customer in Defence colony.
With the arrest of the four the SIT team of Crime Branch of Delhi Police has busted an international racket involved in fraud.
"The NRI had alleged that he received a spam mail in December 2010 from Canada about "Business Opportunity in India". He replied to it in the positive. Thereafter, he exchanged many mails with Terry John (name mentioned in the mail) and he asked him to supply "licorice seed" from India to their Canada-based company `Theravaccine`, said Sanjay Kumar Jain, DCP Crime and Railways.
Lured by the prospect of heavy profit, as the seeds are very rare and costly, he agreed to supply 100 packets of licorice seeds costing nearly Rs 90 lakh to Terry John`s company.
On this, he contacted Verma on his mobile phone and the accused agreed to supply 100 packets of licorice seed for Rs 43.5 lakh. After settling the deal, Verma asked him to come to Delhi with cash Rs 43.5 lakh to take the delivery of 100 packets of licorice seed.
In December 2010, the complainant reached Delhi and contacted Verma, who called him near a cafe in Safdarjang Development Area Market. Two persons met him there and one of them introduced himself as Roshan Verma who gave him one packet as sample of licorice seeds.
The victim contacted John and gave him the description of the seed. After getting the approval of Terry John, he handed over cash of Rs 43.5 lakh to Verma who in turn he gave him a bag with 100 packets of licorice seed.
After that, as per emails/telephonic conversations, he kept on waiting for one Bernard (the name given through email) to take the delivery of the consignment of 100 packets and to give him the payment of Rs 90 lakh against the consignment, as per settlement with them via email.
But no one came to collect the consignment and later he learnt that he has been cheated by the accused persons.
In April this year, the victim came in contact with one Raghavendra Bhat of Bangalore, who informed him that he had also received emails offering to supply licorice seed. He was asked to come to Delhi for finalising the deal.
During interrogation, they said members of their racket were spread all over the world.
"The Nigerians adopted unique modus operandi by deploying Indian agents on the front to lure and dupe the unsuspecting clients in India.
A genuine looking business opportunity spam mails were sent to a number of people and one or the other fell for it and then this racket maneuvered and manipulated the client into buying licorice seed at Rs 45,000 per packet and carefully lured those peoples to buy further huge quantity by making false promises. The primary seller and the secondary buyer were all part of the same racket, the official said.
"The Nigerians were residing illegally as no valid documents regarding their stay in India were found," Jain said.
Licorice is a perennial herb. Its roots have upto 24 per cent glycyrrhizin, which is 50 times sweeter than sugar. It is used in medicine, candies, and tobacco products. Licorice flavouring is also used in soft drinks, and in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet aftertaste.
The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours. Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra is one of the main herbs used in traditional medicines for centuries.
European licorice, apart of its medicinal capabilities, is widely used in pharmaceutical products and in different industries like beverages and liquors, confectionary, as a tobacco sweetener.