Speak Asia is in trouble for false claims about its highprofile clients. In a major revelation, Headlines Today has unearthed the shady ownership pattern of Speak Asia. Headlines Today has learnt that Speak Asia is not based in Singapore.
The real owner or majority stakeholder is based in British Virgin Islands, a known tax haven. The tax haven is used by tax evaders to channelise ill-gotten wealth.
Documents in the possession of Headlines Today show that while Harinder Kaur is a representative director of Speak Asia, the real owners or stakeholders have been identified as Podium Ring International Ltd, based in Tortola in Virgin Islands. The secrecy in the ownership of Speak Asia conforms to a typical offshore structure where a multilayered waterfall structure is created to hide the actual owner.
So, this gives rise to the question, who owns Speak Asia, which has investment worth crores from Indians. The documents in Headlines Today's possession show Wong Chuen Shya as secretary. This can prove to be a challenge for Indian agencies as information from British Virgin Islands can be obtained only through a Letter Rogatory.
The noose is tightening around Speak Asia after Headlines Today uncovered irregularities in the functioning of the market research website. After the Headlines Today investigation, authorities in Uttar Pradesh raided two franchisees of Speak Asia. The raids were conducted after allegations of service tax violations against these franchisees.
The raids were confirmed to Headlines Today by the office of the Commissioner for Excise and Service Tax in Lucknow. Speak Asia's worries do not end there. The Centre has also now stepped in to ensure that the investors of Speak Asia are not taken for a ride.
The ministry of company affairs (MoCA) has told Headlines Today that the government will ensure that the company does not indulge in any action, which adversely impacts the investors who have poured crores into Speak Asia. D.K. Mittal, secretary, MoCA said that the department will work in close collaboration with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to safeguard investors' interests.
The government will now look into the alleged act of irregularities of the market research company.
| Modus operandi of a perfect rip-off|
Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd, a company incorporated in Singapore, promises its subscribers access to issues of an e-zine named Survey India for a fee - Rs 6,000 for six months empanelment as standard panelist and Rs 11,000 for one year as premium panelist.
The fee also permits the subscribers to participate in two online research surveys, which purportedly leaves the person richer by Rs 1,000 per week. In fact, subscribers have been lured by talk of annual returns of over 400% on their initial investment.
The scheme has reportedly lured 19 lakh subscribers in India. Speak Asia has grown by leaps and bounds. The website, which ranks 1,233 globally, according to online ratings website Alexa, ranks 53rd in India. India contributes about 92 per cent of the website's traffic. The three-month traffic growth of the website stands at a huge 245 per cent.
A huge number of advertisements during the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament as well as in TV channels and media publications ensured the growth in visibility of the website. Speak Asia's chief executive officer (CEO) is chartered accountant Harinder (Haren) Kaur. Wong Chuen Shya is its secretary. Both individuals are Singapore citizens. Strangely, the CEO is not traceable even on the company's website.
Stranger still is the franchisee agreement. The document says it is the global distributors of Surveys Today and seeks to extend the reach of the e-zine among the Internet-connected community. However, the agreement has no mention of the online market survey. Speak Asia Online says it operates from 10 Ubi Crescent, #07-68, Ubi Techpark, Singapore - 408564.
It also mentions the registration number issued by Accounting and Corporate Authority of Singapore: 200618809D. Interestingly, the company has undergone two name changes - from Pan Automotives Pte Ltd initially to Haren Technologies Pte Ltd, and lastly to Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd. The company was never issued a Compliance rating for annual filings given to firms whose Annual General Meeting (AGM) and accounts are current.
Despite crores of rupees having flowed into the company's coffers, it is yet to unveil its business model to its investors and other stakeholders.
Neither has it been able to name one big client.
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Courtesy: Headlines Today