On January 18, leading dailies in Pune carried the news about the first suicide of DSM investors. Tanaji Korke, a 61-year-old auto rickshaw driver killed himself on January 17 leaving a three-page suicide note. He was frustrated as he was unable to arrange funds for his daughter’s wedding. He had invested Rs 4 lakh in the names of his two unwed daughters and Rs 50,000 in his grandchildren’s name. But, with DSK turning out a big financial fraud, Tanaji failed to get back his money leading to him taking his life.
This is the first suicide in the Rs 2,000 crore worth real estate fraud which was unearthed in September 2017. A total of 19 persons have lost their lives due to psychological pressure which led to different kinds of illness including heart attack and brainstroke.
DSK is a real estate giant from Pune owned by DS Kulkarni. His tagline Gharala Gharpan Denari Mansa (People who make you home homely!) still feature regularly in daily conversations in Pune. He had launched different schemes for investors like Fixed Deposits and Short Term Loans etc. But since 2016, the returns on investment started getting delayed. By the end of 2017, thousands of people in Pune noticed that something is seriously wrong with DSK's finances, and all investors came together and started demanding their money back. The matter was regularly covered by entire Marathi media for almost six months. Many politicians, including Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, appealed to the people to stay calm and give DSK some time. But even after that, DSK failed to keep their word of returning money and was later arrested by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) in Delhi in February 2018. He has been jailed since then.
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In the chargesheet filed by EOW, the agency has claimed the scam to be worth of Rs 2,046 crore. Around 35,000 investors like Tanaji have been named in the chargesheet, who made FDs worth of Rs 700 crore. The remaining money was borrowed in the form of bank loans, short term loans, etc.
DK Hiwarkar was once a famous teacher of coaching classes for commerce students. In thw 1980s and 90s, Hiwarkar’s name was popular among almost every commerce student in Pune. In 2014-15, Hiwarkar at the age of 71 invested a huge sum (Hiwarkar's son requested not to disclose the amount) in the DSK FD. "Banks gives 7% interest. DSK was offering some 12% interest, so my father invested his lifetime savings into it. Actually, he got the interest for first year but since 2017, cheques started getting bounced. So, he inquired at the DSM office but he was not given any information. Due to stress, he got a brainstroke and collapsed in the compound of our building. He was admitted for 23 days, where he breathed his last," said Mahesh Hiwarkar, his son.
The Hiwarkar family feel cheated by DS Kulkarni. "My father was his friend. They knew each other since a long time. That's why he invested in the private company," Mahesh added.
This feeling was reciprocated by other investors too. NewsClick met with another investor, Vaishali Kulkarni, who lost Rs 25 lakh. She is a school teacher. "DSK was accepting investments even during the days when the cheques of other investors were bounced. We got to know about it when we made a complaint to police," said Vaishali. She also thinks that it is a failure on the part of different agencies too. "How would we know that DSK is using our money for his personal accounts? There should be a system to keep a watch on whether our invested money is being used properly or not. The lack of it led to this scam," she said.
The efforts to take back the money are still on. Now, all these investors have formed a forum. A case is already registered but, the entire process has been very slow. "We keep meeting every Sunday. Almost 100 to 150 investors come for the meeting every week. We inform them about the efforts that are being taken. We can only do this now," said Mahesh.
DSK is one of the many examples of real estate frauds, due to which common investors have been struggling for years, some even losing their lives.
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