Sunday, 19 August 2018

PIL on over-invoicing by power firms: Delhi HC told about closure of enquiry by CBI

The CBI, in its affidavit, said not much progress could be made in the enquiry and the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) was closed on July 15, 2015, on jurisdictional issue as the project was under the Maharashtra government.

The CBI has told the Delhi High Court that a preliminary enquiry against Adani Enterprises Ltd, Maharashtra Eastern Grid Power Transmission Company Ltd (MEGPTCL) and various PSU banks on alleged over-invoicing of coal and equipment imported by the power generating firms of Adani group for its plants has been closed. The CBI, in its affidavit, said not much progress could be made in the enquiry and the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) was closed on July 15, 2015, on jurisdictional issue as the project was under the Maharashtra government. A bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla listed the matter for further hearing on July 4. The court had earlier sought the CBI’s response on its inquiry into alleged over-invoicing of coal and equipment imported by power generating companies of the Adani group for its plants.

The agency, in its response, said the core issue of the PE was pertaining to the transmission network, which was within Maharashtra, i.e. the Intra-State Transmission System, and thus, it was a project under the Maharashtra government. It said the PE was registered on June 12, 2014, against “MEGPTCL, PMC Projects India Pvt Ltd, Adani Enterprises Ltd, Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company Ltd and unknown officials of public sector banks (PSB) — SBI, PNB, Vijaya Bank, OBC, SBM and Canara Bank — to enquire into the allegations of availing various credit facilities for the purpose of procurement of power generation and power transmission equipments/machineries from various vendors of South Korea, China etc, through UAE-based intermediary Electrogen Infra FZE, Dubai, (an Adani group company), which were allegedly imported by gross over-valuation/over-invoicing thereby siphoning off the funds of various PSBs”.

The court had earlier asked the agency to indicate on the affidavit the status of the FIR registered by it against state-run entities — Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) — in connection with the alleged over-invoicing of coal imports. It had also asked the CBI to state what steps it took on the alert issued by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) allegedly naming 40 other entities, which indulged in over-invoicing of the fuel and equipment for power plants. The DRI had told the court that pursuant to the investigation against the companies mentioned in the petition, show cause notices were issued and thereafter, the adjudication of the cases are at different stages.

The submission was made on an affidavit in which the DRI had also said since several transactions were conducted outside India, “there is material evidence, which is required to be recovered from overseas as well, for which appropriate legal steps have been initiated”. Besides, the DRI had said it was “in the process of issuing Letters Rogatory (LRs) to overseas courts in Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Indonesia to gather evidence/documents in accordance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties in place with these countries”. The court was hearing two petitions, one by a private individual and another by two NGOs alleging that the power firms belonging to the two corporate groups were allegedly inflating the value of imports for their power plants to siphon off money abroad and avail higher power rate compensation.

The NGOs claimed that the DRI had earlier unearthed that public and private sector energy companies were siphoning off several thousands crores of rupees abroad. “Most of these over-invoicing instances have been reported from the power sector, the impact of which is felt by millions of electricity consumers in the form of higher tariff,” the NGOs claimed in their PIL. “The modus operandi is identical in all these cases. The coal or power equipment, even though (these are) shipped directly to India, but the invoicing is routed through a different company incorporated abroad, which is directly owned and controlled by the promoters of the project in India,” the NGOs’ PIL claimed.

The plea has also claimed that the CBI had registered a PE based on the DRI show-cause notice to Adani in May 2014. However, the CBI apparently closed the PE without registering an FIR during the tenure of the then CBI director Ranjit Sinha, the PIL has alleged.

By PTI, First Published in Financial Times

Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi

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