Ringing Bells head Mohit Goel of Freedom 251 fame detained for alleged fraud
Mohit Goel, the Founder and Director of Ringing Bells, was arrested on Thursday afternoon in Uttar Pradesh, India on allegations of fraud charges. He was held after one of the smartphone’s distributors claimed it had not received handsets it had paid for.
For those unfamiliar, Indian smartphone maker Ringing Bells shook the entire tech world in February 2016 by announcing the world’s cheapest smartphone, Freedom 251 exclusively at a price of Rs. 251 (which is less than $4). They invited everyone to make registrations for grabbing the smartphone at an inexpensive price. The company’s website on which pre-orders were taken crashed with huge numbers of people trying to access it to book a phone. While the smartphone attracted strong demand, it also invited widespread skepticism and scrutiny from regulators claiming it as a scam.
Despite all the hiccups and accusations, Ringing Bells actually started shipping its Freedom 251 smartphones in mid-2016. However, a number of distributors have alleged that they placed orders for the devices and received a smaller number than they had paid for.
The FIR by complainant Akshay Malhotra of Ayam Enterprises, a Ghaziabad resident and one of the distributors of the company, has named a total of five persons, including Goel in his complaint. Ringing Bells managing director and Goel’s brother, Anmol Goel, Goel’s wife Dharna Garg, general manager Sumit Kumar, and partner Ashok Chaddha have also been named in the FIR.
He said that Goel convinced him to pay Rs. 30 lakhs ($3million) for the devices. However, the firm delivered devices worth less than half of that amount to him.
Malhotra said that a total of Rs. 16 lakh payment was pending from the company as they could not deliver smartphones and accessories and kept on prolonging the matter for nearly a year.
“So, I had to file the FIR. We gave them a total of Rs 30 lakh for distributorship for phones and accessories in December, 2015 when Goel was the managing director. Then, the agreement was signed and the amount paid in advance. Later, they delivered some goods which were not of proper quality,” Malhotra said.
“However, due to delay in delivery, we asked them to return the amount. Nearly Rs. 10 lakh was paid to us in two instalments. They also gave us some goods which were valued around Rs. 3-4 lakh. Finally, a total of Rs. 16 lakh was pending which was never returned,” he added.
When the dealer pursued Ringing Bells for a refund for the unfulfilled order, he is said to have received death threats for demanding money back from the alleged fraudsters.
On the other hand, Goel said he was willing to pay back the money and did not know what had “transpired”.
“The payments of several distributors were pending and we have promised to pay them by March 31. I still don’t know what transpired. I was willing to pay back his payment and he was also ready. I don’t know why police declined this. It is surprising that a couple of days back Noida crime branch gave us a clean chit and soon I am implicated in another case now,” the Hindustan Times quotes Goel as saying.
The Ghaziabad police have claimed that they had received several other complaints of fraud against Ringing Bells and would deal with them swiftly. Currently, they have Goel in custody and intend to take him to court at the earliest.
“There were complaints of cheating against Goel. He had taken money from several people under the guise of providing them distribution agencies of his smartphone company Ringing Bells last year. However, he had failed to honour his commitments. We have arrested him and he will be taken to court on Friday,” said Deepak Kumar, SSP of Ghaziabad.
So far, the company has only shipped around 70,000 smartphones and the Ringing Bells website has been non-functional for months.