A private firm engaged in emu farming in Chennai, TN has been charged with cheating investors of their promised monthly returns.
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Emu stand from 5 to 6 feet in height with black and white stripes and can weigh up to 150 lbs when mature. Emus normally attain their full height within 12 months. Emus have been known to live in excess of 30 years.
Females often start laying eggs when they are 2-3 years old. When fully mature productive females may lay in excess of 60 eggs a year but the average is 25-30 with a reproductive cycle starting at 2 years of age can create an abundance of birds in a very short span of time. The normally dark green eggs are laid every 3 days (on average) during the winter and early spring months. Eggs average about 500-700 grams (1.1 to 1.5 lbs), but it is not unheard of to have eggs less than 300 grams (.6 lbs) or larger than 1000 (2.2 lbs). When fertile, it takes about 2 months to hatch an emu egg. Males do the majority of the hatching and rearing of the chicks, as the females tend to live very nomadic lives. Females often are the more aggressive of the species, which is why it is most common to see emus kept in pairs, although trios (1 male and 2 females) are not uncommon when the females have been raised together.
Mr. Guru, M.D of Susi emu firm and seven others of the firm have been booked under Sections 420 (cheating) and 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, based on written complaints from five investors. The complainants claimed that they had invested in the commercial emu farming schemes of the firm, which assured monthly returns. But, the payments dried up recently and requests were not answered.
The police launched a detailed investigation following the complaints. Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Gunasekaran, who heads the investigation, said that investors were turning up at the firm’s head office at Perundurai, claiming that they did not receive their monthly payments. “The owner of the firm is absconding.”
On 7.98.2012, more than 2,000 persons who had invested in the firm gathered in front of the head office and claimed that they had not received their monthly payments. They alleged that the firm had collected a huge sum as deposits from them promising staggering returns on their investment. But, it had failed to return their money.
The district administration launched a probe under the Tamil Nadu Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act. A team of revenue officials led by District Revenue Officer S. Ganesh inspected the firm’s premises
In 2006, M.S. Guru, hailing from Perundurai, founded Susi Emu Farms and introduced a buy-back scheme that promised lucrative returns on investment in contract emu farming. For an initial investment of Rs. 1.5 lakh, he promised a return of Rs. 3.34 lakhs within two years. Under the scheme, the company provided investors three pairs of chicks on the payment of Rs. 1.5 lakh as caution deposit. It also provided the infrastructure to rear the birds and offered Rs. 6,000 a month for the maintenance of the birds, besides a yearly bonus of Rs. 20,000. Thus, the investor was offered around Rs. 1.44 lakh. As per the scheme, the company would take back the birds after two years and return the deposit too. When word got out that Susi Emu Farms made prompt payments, the investments poured in; in no time the company’s presence spread all over Tamil Nadu.
Soon after, the firm introduced a VIP scheme, taking advantage of the lack of awareness among people about the birds. Under this scheme, the investor had to deposit Rs. 1.5 lakh. But unlike the regular scheme, the firms promised to rear the chicks and pay the investors Rs. 7,000 a month and an annual bonus of Rs. 20,000.
The success of Mr. Guru’s business model led to the mushrooming of emu firms, which advertised heavily in the Tamil media. Some even promised a return of Rs. 2 lakh a month for an investment of Rs. 10 lakh.
Oblivious to the fact that there are no processing facilities for products derived from emus, the investors bought these firms’s claims that they exported emu meat and that everything from an emu was marketable. Many firms reportedly even engaged in trading of birds among themselves instead of marketing the emu meat, oil and skin (for leather).
Sensing that something was wrong, the Erode district administration issued repeated warnings asking people not to fall for the tempting offers from these firms. “We have warned the investors on several occasions. But, lured by the get-rich-quick schemes, they failed to see the warning signs,” Collector V.K. Shanmugam said.
The bubble burst when Susi Emu Farms failed to pay the monthly maintenance fee to the investors. After waiting for some time, the investors made a beeline for the firm’s office in Perundurai.
On August 6, 2012 Mr. Guru and his entire family disappeared. Others in the business followed suit, abandoning scores of investors and the birds.
Dream Dare Win