Southern Indians left penniless after emu investment scheme bosses disappear leaving thousands of birds to starve

 

Delhi

When someone came up with the idea of breeding emus in southern India it sounded like a sure-fire way to prosperity. The meat could be sold to restaurants, the hide turned into leather.

And for many years the scheme paid dividends as more and investors bought into the idea and other breeders joined in the emu bonanza. Local movie stars were recruited to publicise the project.

But in recent days, what police said was essentially a large Ponzi scheme has collapsed, leaving up to 20,000 fuming investors fighting to recover their money and government officials struggling to feed anywhere between 40,000-100,000 unwanted emus. The men who had promised the big bucks have reportedly fled with the cash.

“Indian farmers were offered false promises of great financial returns for raising emus and thousands of them succumbed to temptation and got scammed,” said Bhuvaneshwari Gupta, of the animal rights group Peta India. “There isn’t a demand for emu meat or eggs in India, people are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with emu meat.”

While investigations are taking place in four southern states, the epicentre of the emu craze was in the Erode district of Tamil Nadu where the flightless birds were first raised in 2006. Reports suggest that for several years investors saw a decent return on their money.

But police say the returns were based on money coming in from other investors, rather than a genuine profit, and that the emu farms failed to even establish facilities for killing the birds or processing their meat and hide.

Police say efforts are underway to seize the assets of five firms that operated in the town of Perundurai, the most notorious of which appears have been Susi Emu Farms, which was founded by MS Guru. Mr Guru is among those missing. A further 23 firms are under the watch of the Tamil Nadu police.

“After framing charges against the five major firms, we will start accepting complaints against smaller firms,” said PR Venmathi, a superintendent with the force’s economic offences wing. She added: “All the promoters have gone underground and their birds have been abandoned.’’

The scam has left in its wake thousands of furious farmers and other investors who have descended on Perundurai. While all claim to have been unknowingly duped, some commentators have suggested that at least some must have realised they were taking part in an illegal and risky venture.

Among those who said he had no idea that it was not what it appeared was P Subrahmani, from Omallaur in the west of the state. He invested 1.5m rupees (£17,000) into the scheme and even found other investors. “The Susi Emu Farms has taken me for a ride, saying it was a very simple business,” he told The Independent. “They promised to supply chicks and the fodder. The shed was built on my premises. They claimed it was free though I had to pay a huge amount in the form of interest free security deposit.”

Another investor, R Arumugam, who comes from near the town of Salem, claimed he was also cheated by Susi Emu Farms. Mr Arumugam, who is disabled, said he invested 600,000 rupees. “When they claimed it was risk-free and involved no hard work, I felt this business was tailor-made for me due to my handicap,” he added.

Among the pressing problems is what to do with all the emus. For a number of days many birds were left untended and had started to fight and peck each other. Now the authorities have moved in, vowing to feed them. Their ultimate fate remains unclear. The Erode magistrate VK Shanmugham said vets were regularly checking the birds. “We are getting the feed from the suppliers and distributing it to the birds,” he said.

Meanwhile, the animal rights activists have written to the country’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, calling for emu farming to be banned and pointing out that it has failed in other countries, not just India. Ms Gupta, of Peta India, said they also reminded Mr Singh “of our earlier request for the government to promote vegan eating – not meat production - to encourage the public to help the environment, animals and their own health.”

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering