Top official of Speak Asia detained by police (Lead)

July 29th, 2011 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, July 29 (IANS) The chief operating officer of Speak Asia, a Singapore-based firm that offers handsome rewards to registered members who participate in online surveys for clients, was detained Friday by the economic offences wing of Mumbai Police.

Tarak Bajpai has been detained for investigation into a possible multi-crore rupee fraud, said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of the Mumbai police. The move comes two days after the Criminal Investigation Department had frozen the company’s bank accounts in India.

Bajpai was arrested in Indore and brought to Mumbai Friday, an officer said. Three other officials may also be detained soon, he added.

Bajpai, who handles the India operation for the company, however, told reporters that it was just a “small” probe that he was asked to respond to, and sought to tell Speak Asia members, who number some two million, that the operations were not above law.

“I am going for a small investigation. The management of the company is there to support all Speak Asians,” he said while being taken into police custody. “All departments have given us a clean chit and this too is a small an investigation,” he said.

“I have a stay order from high court to deal with unforeseen problems.”

Asked for the specific cause of the arrest, Bajpai sought to dodge the question saying he was only is going to respond to certain questions that may be raised by the probe officials and that he was not being arrested.

Earlier this month, the ministry of corporate affairs had also ordered an investigation by the Registrar of Companies into issues such as its management structure, as also the reason why it was not registered in the country.

Headquartered in Singapore, Speak Asia is yet to be registered as a company in India, officials said. Many police reports and public interest litigations had been filed against the company, alleging fraud.

Once a member joins up and pays a fee of Rs.11,000, Speak Asia allows them to respond to market research which clients want conducted. Members also earn reward points, that can be encashed, for giving opinions on product and other promotional strategies.

In its website, the company says: “The company and its business are legal.” The company dispatches money from Singapore by way of bank transfer, without the members having to even visit their banks, it says.

“The nature of business is such that legally the need for a permanent establishment does not arise as per prevailing laws in India. However to effectively support the business in India, Speak Asia is now going to open a permanent establishment in India soon.”

The company also claims it has written to several agencies and regulatory bodies in India, as also the Prime Minister’s Office, for a thorough probe into its affairs since allegations against it could damage its reputation and trust.

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