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Achhe din? Maharashtra’s BJP minister Pankaja Munde embroiled in Rs.2 bn scam

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Image courtesy DNA
Image courtesy DNA

 

Mumbai: Maharashtra’s Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde was on Wednesday embroiled in a controversy involving alleged irregularities in awarding contracts worth Rs.206 crore (Rs.2.06 billion) with the Congress demanding a CBI probe in the matter.

The minister — daughter of union minister Gopinath Munde who died in a road accident in New Delhi last year — is accused of doling out the multi-crore-rupee contracts through multiple Government Resolutions (GRs) on a single day (February 13) instead of adopting the e-tendering or tender route.

Among the allegations against Munde are irregularities in awarding contracts for workbooks for students, water filters, growth monitoring machines for malnourished kids, medicines and ‘chikkis’ (sweets cookies with nuts and dry fruits in a jaggery base).

Presently in the US, Munde rubbished all allegations in an email statement and claimed that some of her dynamic decisions as minister to reduce corruption have upset some “money-minded bunch of people”.

“I have not broken any rules, as far as I am concerned… I also do not fear any allegations. I’m here to do the best for those kids and women and I will do it,” Munde said.

Not satisfied with the explanation, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant lodged a formal complaint with the state Anti-Corruption Bureau demanding a probe into the allegations against Munde.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan termed the matter as serious and urged the government to hand it over to the Central Bureau of Investigation for a probe.

As per the state government’s norms set in December 2014, e-tendering is a must for all contracts in excess of Rs.3 lakh and in cases where the rates were fixed, e-tendering was mandatory for contracts worth Rs.1 crore since April this year.

A clarification issued by her department said the purchases were made under the rates approved by the central government’s director general of supplies and disposals.

The note also said that in view of the approved rates, there was no need for e-tendering and although e-tendering was a must since April for all such contract exceeding Rs.1 crore, the contracts in question were awarded during the previous financial year (2014-2015).

Among the irregularities Munde is accused of are a contract to a Navi Mumbai-based firm for students’ workbooks worth Rs.5.6 crore with the cheque issued to its proprietor in his personal capacity, and an approval to purchase water filters from a Nashik-based company at Rs.4,500 per unit — but Munde allegedly hiked the cost to Rs.5,200 per unit, although the company had no manufacturing facilities and was to outsource the product, violating government norms.

Besides, two separate orders were issued to purchase growth monitoring machines, used to weigh undernourished kids, and awarded to two separate parties at a cost of Rs.18 crore and Rs.6 crore, respectively, and approval of a medical kit at Rs.720 per unit — but since the provision was for only Rs.500 per kit, the supplier was allegedly permitted to reduce the number of medicines in the kit to keep it within the limit.

The last one was a contract to purchase ‘chikkis’ from a women’s NGO based in Sindhudurg at a cost of Rs.37 crore, which was allegedly hiked by Munde to Rs.75 crore, though the NGOs manufacturing facilities were not ascertained.

Referring to this, the departmental statement said that contrary to media reports (not IANS), the contract was not for ‘chikkis’ worth Rs.114 crore but Rs.52 crore and Rs.23 crore for two different varieties.

Another Rs.41 crore has been directly disbursed in advance to the ‘aanganwadis’ for buying eggs and bananas for children.

There has been no reaction from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the allegations clouding his cabinet colleague, though some minister have defended Munde who was once a chief ministerial candidate.

(IANS)

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PNB Fraud Fully Exposes the Malicious Intent Of Nirav Modi

For the past seven years, Nirav Modi’s three firms-Diamond R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds-were in the process of procuring the LoU's from the Punjab National Bank (PNB)

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Nirav Modi's stamped his name in India’s top corporates with growing global prestige with his fame and affluence.
Nirav Modi's stamped his name in India’s top corporates with growing global prestige with his fame and affluence. Facebook
  • Nirav Modi is India’s one of the better- known diamantaires
  • Since 2013, Nirav Modi has been a regular on the lists of rich and famous Indians
  • Nirav Modi and his firms exploited the loopholes in the banking system to the fullest by seeking letters of undertaking

Who Is Nirav Modi

Nirav Modi is India’s one of the better- known diamantaires. Hewas born in a diamond-dealing family and spent his childhood in Antwerp, Belgium. At an early age of 19, he set sail for Mumbai. After spending nine years down the lane, he came up with his own company named Firestar Diamond Ltd. Initially, Nirav Modi started with selling loose stones and employed the only handful of people. But after attaining staggering success in his business till last year, the number of employees was more than two thousand.

As per the Firestar Group figures, the company’s revenue jumped over three years from 103 billion rupees to some 147 billion rupees by the 2016-17 fiscal year. Since 2013, Nirav Modi has been a regular on the lists of rich and famous Indians. According to Forbes magazine rankings, Nirav Modi’s net worth ranges to some $1.8 billion which itself explains the lavish lifestyle of the business tycoon.

Also Read: Biggest Bank Frauds Which Shook The Indian Economy

Nirav Modi’s stamped his name in India’s top corporates with growing global prestige with his fame and affluence. The Bollywood star and former Miss World, Priyanka Chopra also adorned with Modi’s jewels. From Hollywood’s red carpets to the Bollywood awards, his diamonds have sparkled on the bodies of actors and models like Kate Winslet, Dakota Johnson and Priyanka Chopra.

Last month, Nirav Modi was spotted at the World Economic Forum in Davos. A group photograph with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the foreground and Nirav Modi in between rows of Indian business leaders have come under fire from the Congress party and notably carried out by the Indian media. Some political parties have taken a direct shot at Prime Minister for facilitating the run of Nirav Modi. In one of its tweet, Rahul Gandhi blamed Narendra Modi for this blunder.

Nirav Modi and his firms exploited the loopholes in the banking system to the fullest by seeking letters of undertaking (LOU) and thus raised credit from foreign banks to pay to its merchants. In simple words, LOU is a bank guarantee issued for overseas import payments. The scandal is termed as India’s biggest banking scams in ages.

For the past seven years, Nirav Modi’s three firms-Diamond R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds-were in the process of procuring the LOU’s from the Punjab National Bank (PNB). Through these bank guarantees, Nirav Modi was able to raise the short-term loans from foreign branches of Indian banks to pay to its suppliers of raw material for his business.

A criminal complaint with the CBI was filed on January 29 accusing Nirav Modi and others of defrauding the bank and causing it a loss of Rs. 280 crore.
A criminal complaint with the CBI was filed on January 29 accusing Nirav Modi and others of defrauding the bank and causing it a loss of Rs. 280 crore. Wikimedia Commons

Due to the recent setback to the Punjab National Bank, its shares closed 2% lower at Rs. 125.65 against the previous day’s closing on BSE.

The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) booked the billionaire jewellery designer on January 31, along with his wife Ami, brother Nishal and business partner Mehul Choksi. The Nirav Modi’s wife is a U.S. citizen and said to be equally involved in the billion dollar fraud. The charges levelled against them were of allegedly cheating state-run Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs. 280 crore. Within a fortnight of the first complaint by the Punjab National Bank, CBI was taken into the loop.

Also Read: 16 Indian origin people indicted for running a scam in the United States

Nirav Modi and his brother Nishal, who is a Belgian citizen, left India on January 1. However, it is still not known if they travelled together or separately. Meanwhile, Nirav Modi’s wife Ami, who is a US citizen, left India on January 6. Following the footsteps of his business associates, Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali jewellery chain, left on January 4, the officials said.

After the exposure of the scam, CBI and the Enforcement Directorate moved to the External Affairs Ministry in order to get revoked the passports of Nirav Modi and his associates. Hence, the passports of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi got suspended for four weeks.

The last nail is struck by CBI as it has asked Interpol for help to arrest celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, who is being investigated for one of the biggest bank frauds of the country.

Due to the recent setback to the Punjab National Bank, its shares closed 2% lower at Rs. 125.65 against the previous day's closing on BSE.
Due to the recent setback to the Punjab National Bank, its shares closed 2% lower at Rs. 125.65 against the previous day’s closing on BSE. Wikimedia Commons

The federal investigative agency and the law enforcement officials raided his jewellery stores and other businesses in Mumbai and New Delhi. However, Nirav Modi’s flagship company, Firestar Diamond, has denied any involvement in the case.

Also Read: 5 scams that rocked India in 2015

After this scam, Nirav Modi’s biggest rivals like Tanishq and Gitanjali Gems must be having a heave of sigh in terms of competition. As per the NDTV’s report, Nirav Modi is holed up at New York’s JW Marriott Essex House at 160 Central Park South, which includes both a hotel and apartments. The place is situated in a premier location overlooking New York’s well known Central Park.

In the following paragraph, thePNB’s swoop of Rs. 11,300 Crore is explained as it is:

  • There is a system of bank guarantee called a letter of undertaking (LOU). Under this a bank allows its customer to raise money from another Indian bank’s foreign branch in the form of a short-term credit. So basically, the LOU serves the purpose of a bank guarantee.
  • In order to avail LOU, the customer or organization is expected to pay margin money to the LOU issuing bank and hence the credit limit is granted. But in the Nirav Modi’s fraud case, he didn’t pay up any margin money and on the top of that, no credit limit was set up for him.
  • On a regular basis, Nirav Modi managed to pay to its suppliers of rough stones for his three firms. The money was paid through the loans by banks including Axis Bank, and Allahabad Bank. It was done by Nirav Modi’s firms on showing the letters of undertakings issued by the Punjab National Bank.
  • Early this year, Punjab National Bank discovered that there was no official record of such letters of the undertaking before reporting the matter to the CBI.
  • In this case, Nirav Modi and his firms were supposed to repay the loans but till now, all these loans have allegedly been rolled over for want of funds. Incidentally, when the borrower fails to make the repayment, the bank which has issued the LOU is constrained to honour the commitments on the behalf of its customers.
  • On February 15, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India), the central finance body of India reportedly directed the Punjab National Bank to pay all these banks that gave loans to Modi’s firm on the basis of guarantees issued by the state lender.
  • So virtually, Indian bank’s foreign branches were making payments on behalf of Nirav Modi’s to its suppliers in the form of loans.
  • The hell broke out in January when Modi’s firm requested further LOUs for paying the overseas suppliers. The bank officials straightforwardly refused to entertain the request on the ground that Modi’s firm needs to keep 100% collateral for the same. On this, Modi’s firm argued that no such money was kept ‘on margin’ in the past either and this led to an investigation by the bank officials who scanned the records only to discover that there was no trace of any such transaction. Lately, it was known that the guarantees/ undertakings were issued by bypassing the rules in collusion with some Punjab National Bank
  • The violation of the Punjab National Bank’s end was a too glaring blunder to ignore. Hence, a criminal complaint with the CBI was filed on January 29 accusing Nirav Modi and others of defrauding the bank and causing it a loss of Rs. 280 crore.The complaint included Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, managing director of Gitanjali Gems. But later on, Nirav Modi’s brother and his wife were also found to be included in this startling scam.