A private company in 2005 came up with an offer to start a bouquet of multimedia and telecom services and got into an agreement with Antrix Corporation, the commercial wing of state space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and made a deal of leasing out two of ISRO's satellites, GSLV-6 & GSLA-6A, for private services at a throw-away price.
It took six years for the then Congress-led UPA government to sense this fraud and later the agreement was cancelled, but then the arbitration started as the private company claimed millions of dollars from the government of India, which was a brazen act of corruption, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday on the apex court verdict on the Antrix-Devas deal.
The Antrix-Devas agreement was signed in 2005, and after years of controversies, it was cancelled in 2011. Serious objections were raised by various state agencies and departments on this agreement, as it authorised Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd to use S-band, a very rare bandwidth, mostly used by the arm forces for their communications, and thus it was directly related to national security, said Sitharaman, as she accused the Congress of putting national security on stake for its ‘crony capitalism'.
But the brazenness of corruption didn't stop there only, as an arbitrator was not even appointed by the then UPA government to put forward the government's side, even after repeated requests, she said.
It shows the half-hearty participation of the UPA government, which indirectly supported Devas Multimedia's strategy to come to India on the pretext of investment, she added.
The company siphoned off as much as Rs 488 crore in the name of starting a US-based subsidiary, IT support services and contesting off-shore legal battles in international courts.
Interestingly, the company claimed to provide the said services through Devas Device, Devas Services and Devas Technologies, which were not existing then, said Sitharaman quoting the SC ruling on the Antrix-Devas agreement, upholding the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLAT) order, which earlier had upheld the earlier order of the Bengaluru bench of NCLT that last year directed winding up of Devas Multimedia and appointed a provisional liquidator for the purpose.
Later the company went to international courts and legal fora to claim $1.13 billion as compensation for its losses. Devas then moved the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the basis of India- Mauritius bilateral investment protection agreement, which later directed the Indian government to pay $111 million with interest and legal cost.
Devas Multimedia also won before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to get an award of $1.3 billion against Antrix. On the other side, the CBI and the ED also started investigating the Antrix- Devas deal and filed FIRs. Even the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had initiated an investigation.
It seemed more like a crime investigation thriller when the Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI) busted a planned all-India tax evasion racket and unearthed Rs 4,521 crore of tax evasion.
A series of raids and investigations landed the DDGI to Kolkata finally, once infamous as den of fake companies' racket, in the post-demonetization period.
The DGGI found out that a syndicate was involved in operating about 636 firms, based out of various cities and duping the government through fake tax invoices.
It all started with a case, booked by the DGGI against some fake firms, which were found non-existing at their principal place of business.
To trace the real persons behind these fake firms, the physical address from where GST returns were actually filed was ascertained.
A search was conducted on January 6 at that premises in Delhi. During the search, it was found that the proprietor is engaged in providing services of 'Cloud Storage' on his servers to various customers for maintaining their financial accounts.
On the scrutiny of one of the suspicious servers, details of certain firms were found in Tally data. It was informed by the proprietor that this Tally data is being maintained by one syndicate based in Kolkata.
The address details of these persons were obtained from Proprietor and then searches were conducted at various premises in Kolkata on January 10.
During the search, a huge amount of incriminating documents including mobiles phones, various cheque books, stamps of various firms and SIM cards have were recovered. On analysis of electronic devices, documents, mobiles and e-mail of these persons, it has been found that these persons are remotely maintaining data on the server found at the premises in Delhi.
Scrutiny of Tally data has shown that there are 636 firms being operated by this syndicate. The mastermind of the syndicate has accepted that they have issued only invoices in these firms and not supplied any goods against them.
They have issued invoices involving the taxable value of approximately Rs 4,521 crore having ITC implication of approx Rs 741 crore.
The mastermind behind the whole racket has been arrested and further investigation into the case is in progress.
A team of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials on Tuesday reached the premises of Kanpur businessman Piyush Jain in Uttar Pradesh's Kannuj where a raid of the Director-General Supplies and Transport (DGST) is still underway.
According to information, the DRI is mulling to file a separate case against Piyush Jain, and will help GST officials in fixing the overall value of gold recovered during the raid.
"On Monday, 23 kg of gold and 600 kg of sandalwood oil hidden in underground storage, having a market value of about Rs 6 crore were seized from his office and factory premises. Since the gold recovered is having foreign markings, the DRI was roped in for necessary investigations," said a GST official.
The DRI officials when contacted didn't divulge more details, however, they said they will be able to comment once the raid is over.
A six-member team of DRI officials reached at Piyush Jain's premises on Tuesday morning. Jain was on Monday remanded to 14-day judicial custody by a special court.
The Ahmedabad unit of Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI) had on December 22 initiated search operations in Kanpur at the factory premises of manufacturers of Shikhar brand Pan Masala and Tobacco Products.
They conducted raids at the office Godowns of M/s Ganpati Road Carriers, Transport Nagar, Kanpur, and the residential/factory premises of M/s Odochem Industries, suppliers of perfumery compounds at Kanpur, Kannauj and Mumbai.
Four trucks full of goods without any GST papers were intercepted by the GST officials.
The actual stock kept at the factory was tallied with the stocks recorded in the books and the GST officials found shortage of raw materials and finished products.
This further corroborated that the manufacturer was indulging in clandestine removal of goods with the help of a transporter who used to issue fake invoices. The GST officials have recovered 200 fake invoices so far.
The manufacturers of the Shikhar brand of pan masala products admitted that they deposited an amount of Rs 3.09 crore towards their tax liability.
GST officials said that till Tuesday afternoon the total amount of unaccounted cash recovered and seized was Rs 186.45 crore. This is the biggest ever seizure of cash by the CBIC officials. The documents seized from the premises are under scrutiny, said officials.
Even five years after demonetisation, curbing the circulation of counterfeit currency in India seems to have remained a distant dream.
India got a breather for just one year post demonetisation, during which there were very few reports of circulation of fake Indian currency notes (FICN). But after a year's of halt, India's western neighbour continued with its nefarious designs to destabilise the country's economy by pumping in fake currency.
The anti-terror unit of Delhi Police -- the Special Cell -- said that since last about four years, many syndicates have again cropped up and started smuggling and circulating FICN in India.
Notably, counterfeiting of currency notes is an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Further, production, smuggling or circulation of high-quality fake Indian paper currency, coin or any other material has been made a terrorist act under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
As India's western border is heavily guarded, Pakistan is now using other routes to infiltrate counterfeit money from two neighbouring countries with which India shares its borders.
A Special Cell official told IANS that from the investigation of various cases of big seizures of FICN in Kathmandu (Nepal), Bangladesh and in India after demonetisation, it has been strongly suspected that big consignment of FICN are first brought to Nepal and Bangladesh from Pakistan through Gulf countries by air.
From there, the counterfeit money is smuggled into India through the porous international borders of Nepal and Bangladesh by the the members of global FICN syndicates. Their counterparts and contacts in India further supply the FICN to different parts of the country through a pre-existing network of FICN.
Pertinently, a Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed between India and Bangladesh to prevent counter-smuggling and circulation of fake currency notes.
Training programmes are conducted for the officers of Bangladesh and Nepal Police to develop their competence in the areas of detection, investigation and effective prosecution of cases relating to fake currency.
The major challenge is that the recovered fake currencies are of such fine quality, that it is difficult to distinguish them from the original ones by the naked eye, as the notes have almost similar security features as that of the real currency in terms of texture, fine quality of paper, colour, security thread and watermarks.
The information shared by the Special Cell came in the wake of the arrest of two West Bengal natives who were involved in the circulation of fake currency. It was learnt that both the arrested persons had already supplied FICN amounting to more than Rs 2 crore in the national capital during the past two years.
But what are the steps taken by the Indian government to tackle this menace?
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, had informed the Parliament during the Monsoon Session that a Terror Funding and Fake Currency Cell (TFFC) has been constituted under the National Investigation agency (NIA) to conduct a focused investigation into terror funding and fake currency cases.
He had said that security at the international borders has been strengthened by using new surveillance technologies, deploying additional manpower for round-the-clock surveillance, establishing observation posts along the international borders, erection of border fencing and intensive patrolling.
The maximum punishment for offences related to fake currency is up to life imprisonment.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh has demanded that the income of Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav income be investigated.
State MSME Minister and government spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh questioned Yadav's support to certain members of his party who were raided by the income tax department recently.
He accused Akhilesh Yadav of lying about the income tax raids and defending his party members on the pretext of elections and trying to gain sympathy in the name of raids.
The minister said that the SP president should accept that those close to him were tax evaders and that he, too, is their partner.
"Undeclared assets of Rs 400 crore were found in the income tax raids. The income of Akhilesh Yadav and his family should also be investigated. The SP had prepared to fund the elections with this illegal money, but their plans could not be realised. Akhilesh should clarify what relation he has with those who were raided," Singh said.
Singh said that loot, theft and corruption were in the DNA of the SP, and this was confirmed by the income tax raids and a recent CAG report on Noida.
"Akhilesh had turned Noida into a den of loot. The CAG report has exposed corruption to the tune of over Rs 58,000 crore in the allotment of land in Noida during the SP rule. The CAG report exposes how corrupt officials played with the interests of the public at Akhilesh's behest," the minister said.
A tribunal, which is examining the validity of the five-year extension of ban on Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) by the Centre as an unlawful association under the UAPA, commenced its proceedings on Monday and issued notice to the banned organisation.
The tribunal is headed by Delhi High Court Chief Justice D.N. Patel. Naik, an Indian-born controversial Islamic preacher had fled to Malaysia in 2016 when the police lodged a case against him for "anti-national" activities, including promoting hatred among the religious communities through his speeches. The Centre had constituted a seven-member legal team to defend its decision to declare the IRF as an unlawful association along with the extension of the ban by five years.
The tribunal has sought response from the organisation by December 28.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is heading the Centre's legal team defending the extension of the ban, volunteered to publish the notice in leading dailies, over and above regular service so that the banned organisation cannot take any technical defence.
Besides Mehta, the other counsel in the Centre's team are senior advocate Sachin Datta, Rajat Nair, Kanu Agrawal, Amit Mahajan, Jay Prakash, and Dhruv Pandey.
The Centre has constituted an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal headed by Justice Patel under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) provisions to adjudicate whether there is sufficient cause for banning IRF, founded by the controversial Islamic preacher Naik.
The Ministry of Home Affairs' notification dated December 13 read: "The Central Government hereby constitutes an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal consisting of Justice D.N. Patel, Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi, for the purpose of adjudicating whether or not there is sufficient cause for declaring the Islamic Research Foundation as an unlawful association."
The ban on the IRF was extended by 5 years by the MHA through a notification issued on November 15.
The government apprehended that IRF cadre and supporters may disrupt the secular fabric of the country by polluting the minds of the people by creating communal disharmony, propagating anti-national sentiments, escalating secessionism by supporting militancy, and undertaking activities that are prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country and it was necessary to extend the ban on IRF for five years more.
"In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967), the Central Government declared the IRF as an unlawful association, vide, notification of the Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs number SO 3460(E), dated the 17th November, 2016," the MHA notification reads.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it expects a fair investigation and investigating agencies should be neutral, as it asked Delhi Police to conclude the probe in a case against former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh by December 15.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana told Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, representing the Delhi Police's Economic Offence Wing (EOW): "We kept the matter pending. Again, you want time. One thing you have to remember, you should not take sides."
Singh, along with others, is accused of misappropriating Rs 2,397 crore of Religare Finvest Ltd (RFL) funds.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing Singh, said the apex court had granted further time to conclude the probe and now they (the authorities) are again seeking more time.
The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, added: "You need to carry out a fair investigation. We are not bothered who has taken money. In criminal offences, investigating agencies have to be neutral..."
Natraj submitted that the investigation is at an advanced stage and added that by December end, the probe will be complete. The bench said it will not give a lot of time to the police to complete the investigation into the matter. "We are listing the matter for December 15," it said.
Senior advocate R Basant, representing complainant Manpreet Suri of RFL, contended that it will be dangerous to release Singh and added that Rs 200 crore have been paid to silence witnesses in the matter.
As this, the bench said: "You want to file proceedings to settle scores. We don't allow that."
It made it clear that it is a case for bail and it will decide whether to grant or reject bail. "Don't enlarge the scope of this matter. This is a simple case for bail," said the bench.
The Delhi High Court had cancelled Singh's bail, noting that his detention was necessary to unearth the "conspiracy hatched by him" and trace the alleged siphoned off money.
Singh had moved the top court against the Delhi High Court order, which came on RFL's plea challenging the trial court order passed on March 3, granting him bail in the case registered against him by the Delhi Police's EoW for cheating, criminal conspiracy, and criminal breach of trust.
In March 2019, the EOW had registered an FIR after it received a complaint from RFL's Suri against Shivinder Mohan Singh, former CMD of Religare Enterprises Ltd Sunil Godhwani and former CEO Kavi Arora and others. It was alleged that loans were taken by them while managing the firm, but the money was invested in other companies.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued summons to Amazon India's management and Future Group promoter for questioning in a Foreign Exchange Management Act case.
Amazon India's top management including its head Amit Agarwal was summoned by ED for next week, said the source. The official said that they have been asked to join the probe on December 6.
The ED is probing alleged irregularities in the Amazon and Future Retail promoter entity Future Coupons Pvt Ltd (FCPL) deal wherein Amazon purchased stakes in FCPL by investing around Rs 1,400 crore in 2019.
The agency has asked both the companies to come with all sets of documents about the deal.
The financial investigating agency is probing alleged FEMA violations by Amazon when it bought stakes in FCPL in 2019.
FCPL owns 10 percent stake in Future Retail, the promoter entity that runs Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar and Easyday retail stores.
The agency is also probing whether Amazon has taken over controlling rights over Future Retail with its purchase of stake in FCPL in 2019.
It is alleged that in March this year, Future Group promoter firm FCPL had complained to the Competition Commission of India that Amazon had allegedly concealed information and misrepresented facts while seeking the competition watchdog's approval for its Rs 1,431 crore investment to purchase a 49 percent stake in FCPL in 2019.
The delegation of Karnataka Congress leaders met Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot on Thursday and urged for invoking President's rule for 'failure' of constitutional machinery in the state by the ruling BJP.
The delegation led by state President D.K. Shvakumar and Opposition leader Siddaramaiah submitted a memorandum in this regard.
The memorandum said, "The people of Karnataka are shocked to know from the Karnataka State Contractors Association, which is a registered body, having about 1 lakh contractors' membership, that there is a rampant corruption in various departments such as Public Works, Minor and Major Irrigation, Panchayath Raj, Health and Medical Education and BBMP among others."
"For every work, the contractors have to pay more than 40 per cent commission to some of the concerned Ministers, Legislators, Lok Sabha members and other officials of the concerned departments. This is nothing but a bribe as for the provisions of law," the memorandum said.
All these 'facts' have been stated by the said association in their memorandum dated 6 July, 2021 submitted to the Prime Minister and appealed for proper remedial measures on this huge scam.
"The Prime Minister has become silent about this rampant corruption amounting to several thousand crores and by not initiating any action on the Karnataka government even after lapse of more than 4 months from the submission of the above-said memorandum by the Contractors Association," it read.
"The non-action by the Prime Minister and other concerned authorities really causes a lot of panic, anxiety in the minds of law-abiding citizens of our country, more particularly citizens of Karnataka," Shivakumar stated.
"However, out of the total state's budgeted money released by the Government of Karnataka for any project, more than 40 percent goes to paying bribes to the concerned, 12 to 28 per cent as GST, 5 to 6 per cent as EMD and FST," he said.
"If the Contractor raises a loan to carry out any such project work he has to pay at least 12 per cent interest on the investment. In such a situation what will be left for the Contractor to complete the work," Shiva Kumar questioned.
"There is also concern about law and order issues in the State where the Chief Minister has openly expressed his inability to control reaction by few fringe elements. Communal violence has increased under the current government. It is not democracy but anarchy that has become the system in the State," Siddaramaiah stated.
"These facts and circumstances clearly shows and establish that there is rampant corruption, maladministration in the State of Karnataka; which has caused loss of several thousand crores to exchequer and the same has been swallowed by some of the Ministers, MLA's MP's and Officials and therefore it is proper to clamp the President's Rule in Karnataka," he added.
In yet another twist to the Cordelia Cruiser raid, a BJP activist on Saturday claimed that Sunil Patel, who is linked with NCP leaders, is the alleged "mastermind" of the sensational case in which Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, was arrested.
Talking to media persons, Bharatiya Janata Party activist Mohit Kamboj-Bharatiya said that Patil, who hails from Dhule, has close connections with all the top Nationalist Congress Party leaders and ministers and had prior knowledge of the rave party that was scheduled on the cruiser, which was raided by Narcotics Control Bureau's Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, on October 2.
According to Bharatiya, Patil, who is a friend of former state minister Anil Deshmukh's son Hrishikesh Deshmukh, boasted of his strong relations with the NCP leaders and how Anil Deshmukh had once allegedly met drug peddler, Chinku Pathan, an aide of the mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, at a government guest house during the lockdown.
NCP national spokesperson and Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik rubbished Bharatiya's claims, terming it as an unsuccessful attempt "by a member of Wankhede's private army to misguide and divert attention from the truth".
Elaborating, Bharatiya claimed that Patil is also linked with the others whose names have cropped up in recent weeks like Sam D'Souza, Kiran Gosavi, Prabhakar Sail and Manish Bhanushali and "they work as a syndicate".
He alleged that they tried to extort money and are involved in transfers and posting of officials, and charged Malik of "scripting a false narrative to defame the BJP, the NCB and its officers".
Bharatiya demanded to know what is the relationship of Patil with Malik and other senior NCP leaders and ministers with whom he (Patil) enjoys close rapport.
"Patil has a suit booked in Hotel Lalit for months. There were big parties with 'sharab, shabab and kebab' there for those attending them... I will reveal more," he warned.
The BJP activist said that Patil had advance knowledge of the cruise rave party and wanted some link who could put him in touch with the NCB and was referred to Gosavi.
"They are all (Gosavi, D'Souza, Bhanushali) Patil's associates. I have been sent audio-video clips and WhatsApp messages of theirs from someone and I have forwarded them to the probe agencies," Bharatiya said.
Meanwhile, Malik said that he will reveal more on the Hotel Lalit episode on Sunday, even as some BJP leaders advised him to keep off the NCB and let the agency do its work.
Former SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhary has been arrested by the Jaisalmer Police from Delhi on the basis of arrest orders issued by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in the case of selling a hotel property at a cheap price after declaring it NPA. Pratip Chaudhary was arrested on Sunday and will be brought to Jaisalmer on Monday.
According to information received from the police, Pratip Chaudhary was arrested from his residence in Delhi in a case related to a hotel group in Jaisalmer. It is alleged that the property worth about Rs 200 crore was sold for Rs 25 crore by declaring it Non Performing Asset (NPA). This property, in fact, was seized in lieu of the loan.
According to the police, the hotel group had taken a loan of Rs 24 crore from SBI in 2008 for the construction purpose. At that time, another hotel of the group was running smoothly. After that, when the group could not repay the loan amount, the bank seized both the hotels of the group after considering it as a non-performing asset. At that time, the chairman of the bank was Pratip Chaudhary. The bank then sold both the hotels to a company for Rs 25 crore at a much lower price than the market rate. On this, the hotel group went to court.
Meanwhile, the buyer company took over it in 2016 and when this property was valued in 2017, its market value was found to be Rs 160 crore. At the same time, after retirement, Pratip Chaudhary joined the same company as a director to which this hotel was sold. At present, the value of these hotels is being estimated at Rs 200 crore.
In this case, the CJM Court of Jaisalmer ordered the arrest of Pratip Chaudhary.