A British Virgin Islands-based entity has been found to be fraudulently using Tata brand name to lure investors to online investment plans promising huge monthly returns for payments made in bitcoins and some other virtual currencies, as per caution notices issued by Tata group entities.
Claiming to be a subsidiary of $97-billion Indian conglomerate Tata Group, the company - Tata Agro Holding Ltd - was soliciting investments on various online platforms including through its website.
Terming the claims made by this entity as "absolutely false, misleading and intended to defraud innocent and unwary members of the public", the Tatas have denied any association with them and have initiated "appropriate action" in this matter.
While the website of this company no more appears to be functional, its investment plans continue to find a place on a number of internet forums for such online schemes.
About "misuse of Tata name", the group's main promoter entity Tata Sons said in a 'caution notice' that it "is initiating appropriate action in the matter".
"Neither Tata Sons nor any other Tata company has any connection whatsoever with the aforesaid Tata Agro Holding," it added.
Besides being a promoter entity in a host of its group entities, Tata Sons is the owner of the Tata business name and trademarks.
Internet is full of hundreds of such fraudulent investment schemes and thousands of such fraudulent activities are said to be in business outside the internet also, despite continued crackdown by various regulators and government departments, including market watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the Corporate Affairs Ministry.
Among those having come to light, this could be the first case where name of a major corporate house has been misused for such frauds.
Tata Sons said that the BVI-based company was promoting on its website, Tataagro.com, a wide range of investment plans with a monthly profitability of up to 100 per cent, while claiming to be a Tata group company.
The investors have been asked to invest amounts ranging from as low as $5 to a maximum of $10,000 for daily returns of 1.9-3.1 per cent, while there is also a "profitable referral program that lets you earn more and work side by side with your family and friends".
This 'referral program', which gives the investment scheme a ponzi-like pyramid marketing structure, promises 5 per cent commission on every deposit by first-level referrals, 3 per cent for second-level referrals and 1 per cent for third-level referrals.
Another group firm Tata Investment Corporation has also issued a separate 'caution notice', saying that "they (Tata Agro Holding) are illegally using the Tata logo and are wrongly and fraudulently representing that Amit N Dalal, (Executive Director of Tata Investment Corporation Ltd) as the President and CEO of Tata Agro Holding Ltd".
"Neither Tata Sons Ltd, the owner of 'Tata' business name and trademark, nor any other Tata company nor Amit N Dalal, Executive Director Tata Investment Corporation Ltd have any connection whatsoever with the aforesaid Tata Agro Holding Ltd," it said.
"The contents on the website are fraudulent representations and therefore neither any Tata company nor Amit Dalal are responsible for actions taken in response to the claims of Tata Agro Holding Ltd. Tata Sons is initiating appropriate action in the matter."
In messages posted on various online investment platforms, this entity had claimed that Tata Agro is an agricultural investment company established by Amit Dayal in 2012 in British Virgin Islands.
"We are a subsidiary of transcontinental conglomerate Tata Group that has been established in India back in 1868 and now boasts the combined market capitalisation of $96 billion," it said.
"We have retained only the best things from a rich and long experience of our ancestor: the unique corporate culture, client-oriented and customised approach, and understanding of the market through retrospective analysis. Our fundamental aim is to help you grow your capital," it added.
Claiming to be working in businesses like "barley, soya, soya oil and meat, corn, wheat, and livestock and operating on global exchanges like CME Group, TOCOM, and MGEX, the BVI entity has offered four investment plans with the "daily ROI (Return on Investment) of 1.9 per cent to 3.1 per cent and investment terms of 15 to 120 days".
In one of the investment proposals, the company claimed it has been dealing in sales of different agricultural commodities for more than 10 years, starting from 2001.
"Nowadays our main business activities consist of assets management through wheat and corn futures trading on stock exchanges: CME Group, The Minneapolis Grain Exchange and Tokyo Commodity Exchange," it said.