May 05, 2010 News
Elaborate astrology scam busted…
By Leonard Gildarie and Dale Andrews
The Ministry of Home Affairs has reportedly ordered police to arrest several Indian nationals after they allegedly scammed several Guyanese into believing they possessed mystical powers capable of solving problems.
The men, who described themselves as India’s Most Famous Astrologer, Pandits and other such fancy sounding titles, have all disappeared.
It is believed that within a seven-week period, they raked in millions of dollars.
Police are specifically looking for one at David Street, Kitty.
Emerging evidence suggests that the “pandit” had at least four other accomplices, also Indians, who operated on the East Coast, East Bank and West Bank Demerara. Police are also looking for them. It is now believed that the men arrived together on three-month visas and went their separate ways.
Checks at an exclusive residential area at Ruimzeight yesterday found that the “pandit” there hurriedly left Saturday without paying his rent.
According to a businessman who operated a home close to an Ashram, almost seven weeks ago, an Indian national rented his place for $40,000 per month.
“He did not tell me what he wanted to do. Another Indian came and I refused to rent him another place.”
The Ruimzeight residence saw a steady stream of visitors with many persons coming with all kinds of problems including sickness, domestic and money problems.
On Saturday, hours after Kaieteur News had visited the David Street, Kitty operations, the Ruimzeight businessman said that he received a call from his tenant who indicated that he had an emergency in India and had to leave. There was still rent owing.
A few miles away at a Chinese restaurant in Vreed-en-Hoop, another “pandit” who moved into the upstairs Saturday left suddenly over the weekend for Berbice. It was unclear when he would be returning.
While there, Kaieteur News staffers saw one, obviously sick woman who came to visit the “pandit” but was met with the padlocked doors.
At Bagotstown, another “pandit” was not available and there was “no idea when he would be back”.
An alleged victim yesterday claimed that he visited the Bagotstown “pandit” after his wife left him and went overseas.
“I tell he I want her back. He tell me to pay $35,000 and he will do a puja and she will come back in three days. I tell he to do the puja and I will pay him $100,000.”
At David Street, religious flowers and other decorations adorning the doorway to the pandit’s office/home had been taken down and calls to phones went unanswered.
And an official of the Indian High Commission, when questioned yesterday, said that the Commission is not notified when Indians visit Guyana since the only contact would come when there are requests to renew passports or other immigration issues.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, said that the police have been actively pursuing the fraudsters who he confirmed were not granted work permits.
“We have an exercise to round them up because they are in breach of our laws. We have been tracking them down based on the addresses they advertise,” the minister told Kaieteur News.
According to Rohee, there is a widespread view that the activities of these persons are merely economical.
“It’s a sham. If these people could tell the future then they do not need to work. They could get enrichment by seeing what is in store for themselves. Let them read their own palms and predict what they need to do to enrich themselves,” the Home Affairs Minister stated.
Last Friday, Kaieteur News’ staffers went undercover to the David Street operations after several complaints were received that huge sums of money were taken by the so-called astrologer who then failed to deliver on promises to solve their problems.
The “pandit” told the Kaieteur News reporter and his co-worker, who posed as his wife, that a former wife had worked “black magic” over their photos and this was the reason why they were not getting any children.
He requested US$225 to perform a puja and guaranteed pregnancy in one month.
The “astrologer”, taking the left hand of the “wife” disclosed that her future looked bright, with good possibilities after marriage.
After being told that there were no children, the “astrologer” was convinced that there was a problem. Upon examining the “husband” reporter’s right hand, the astrologer found that there was indeed a problem.
“Were you married before?” the reporter was asked. On learning that the reporter was married and had three children, the “astrologer” revealed that “black magic” was at work by someone who killed a “pig, cow and chicken” over photographs of the “couple” and this was the main cause of problems and her inability to get pregnant.
Asked specifically if he was seeing this in his visions, the “astrologer” said yes.
During the undercover session with the “astrologer”, the phone rang several times – “come tomorrow”, “come Monday” were just some of the responses he gave to some callers who obviously had “problems”.
According to the “astrologer”, the reporter and his “wife” should not have sex during the time he would be doing the puja, which could last up to three days.
“I give you something…you put it under your pillow and follow my instructions I will give you after the puja and you will be pregnant after mingling (sex). You will get happiness and peace of mind.”
He was unwilling to take the money in installments.
The reporter then revealed himself and presented his credentials to the “astrologer”. He explained that he was investigating several reports that persons had paid monies to get “help” but were dissatisfied.
On being questioned, the “astrologer” disclosed that he came to Guyana, that it was his first overseas trip from India, to help Guyanese. He was here on a three-month visitor’s visa.
He was unaware that it may be against the law not to seek the approval of the authorities, including the Guyana Revenue Authority.
While not denying he had received huge sums of money from several persons, the astrologer claimed that he never received any complaints from “anyone”.
So far, there have been advertisements on the television and in at least one daily of the astrologer’s services.
Kaieteur News has refused to carry such advertisements placed in its pages, after suspicions arose that it was a fraudulent scheme.
A Mahaica businessman claimed that he recently paid $46,000 to the “astrologer” for a “guide” (protection) to ensure that an extension to his home was blessed and work would progress without any disruptions.
Then there was the contractor who claimed that he paid US$225 for his daughter to get well.
“Three weeks pass and she still feel sick. I went back to him (the astrologer) and he seh that we gun have to do a bigger puja. I know then that something fishy. I met a woman outside his office and she complain that she pay he $96,000 to fix a sore pun she foot. Two weeks pass and it ain’t get better.”
Several persons have since come forward and have disclosed visits to the astrologer but admitted that the hefty sum being charged was a problem.
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