Centre orders ED probe into Antrix-Devas deal

Banglore branch looking into transactions of Antrix, all 4 scientists

The Centre has initiated a detail investigation by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) into the controversial $300 million Antrix-Devas deal, keeping its options of initiating criminal proceedings open.

Speaking to Deccan Herald from Delhi, ED officials said: “We have concluded official communication with our Bangalore branch to look into the deal and are expecting a detailed report in about two-three months.”

A senior official said that the decision to entrust Bangalore with the responsibility was taken last month as Antrix is registered there and the people indicted by the investigation committees also reside here.

“Right now, we are in the process of initial verification, which will need us to look into all the transactions of the deal, parties involved, and ascertain if any other individuals were involved in these transactions and the motive, before initiating seizure of bank accounts and further investigation,” the official said.

Stating that they are in close communication with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the official said that statements of all the four scientists and representatives of Antrix would we recorded in the coming weeks, once evidence or motive is established.

“We are still in the initial stages,” the official said adding that they will be looking into the credentials of Telecom Devas (Mauritius) Limited and Columbia Capital Devas (Mauritius) Limited.

The investigation will also focus on whether or not undue favours were extended to Devas at the cost of the government exchequer.

Although, there has been no legal proceedings initiated in the case—essential for ED to act under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the official said that they can initiate investigation under the provision of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Apart from looking into the credentials of Devas, the ED will also investigate into four scientists indicted by the two committees, including former Isro Chairman Madhavan G Nair. The other three scientists are: former scientific secretary A Bhaskarnarayana, Antrix’s former executive director K R Sridharamurthi and ex-director of the space agency’s satellite centre K N Shankara. All four of them have been blacklisted from any kind of re-employment in any of the government institutions.

On February 6, Deccan Herald had quoted officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), as saying: “...prosecution based on the findings of the probe committees is not ruled out.”

The Centre though, has officially been tight-lipped on the matter. It is noteworthy that the Department of Science (DoS) had only made public a part of the findings of the second committee that looked into the deal, headed by former CVC Prathysh Sinha.
Sources said that the report has found various irregularities in the deal and that, they are being kept out of public purview so as to not impede further investigation.

It is on the same ground, under Section 8 (1) (h) that Nair was denied the information under RTI.

Commenting on the matter, Union Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily maintained: “I am not aware of such a move. I can verify it after March 19.”

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