CBI probing illegal commissions to sons of IIFCO MD, Indian Potash chief, others

Similar modus operandi was allegedly adopted in sending bribes in the AgustaWestland helicopter corruption case too
Last Updated 20 May 2021, 16:48 IST

The CBI is probing alleged illegal commissions worth over Rs 685 crore received during 2007-14 by the NRI sons of IFFCO managing director US Awasthi, Indian Potash Ltd managing director PS Gahlaut and others from overseas suppliers through transactions facilitated by AgustaWestland case accused Rajiv Saxena, the agency said.

The commissions were received from suppliers of fertilisers and raw materials using a complex web of transactions, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleged in its FIR.

The sham transactions were facilitated through circuitous routes in the garb of consultancy agreements to hide commissions to Awasthi, who is also the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative Limited's chief executive officer, and Gahlaut who allegedly imported fertilisers and raw materials at inflated rates, the agency has alleged.

Similar modus operandi was allegedly adopted in sending bribes in the AgustaWestland helicopter corruption case too in which Saxena is facing probe.

IFFCO is a multi-state farmers' cooperative while Indian Potash Limited (IPL) is its company involved in supplying fertilisers for which the government provides subsidies to keep rates in check.

The CBI has alleged that between 2007-14, in order to claim higher subsidies, Awasthi and Gahlaut as part of a criminal conspiracy imported fertilisers at highly inflated rates, which included commission meant for both, from various overseas suppliers.

The commission amounts were siphoned off out of India through their sons based in the US and other accused persons, including owner of Jyoti Trading Corporation and the Rare Earth Group, Pankaj Jain, his brother Sanjay Jain, and senior vice president of the company AD Singh, and chartered accountant Saxena, the CBI has alleged.

"They allegedly siphoned off the commission through a complex web of fake commercial transactions through multiple companies registered outside India (beneficially owned by the accused persons) to camouflage the fraudulent transactions as genuine," it said in the FIR.

The CBI has alleged that Saxena and his associates received $114.32 million, around Rs 685 crores at a transaction rate Rs 60 per dollar of illegal commission, in the bank accounts of his group companies and individual accounts of Jain, Gahlaut's son Vivek, Awasthi's son Amol and AD Singh.

It has also alleged that $80.18 million -- Rs 481 crores approximately -- was channelised through Jain's Rare Earth Group and the remaining, $34.14 million -- Rs 204 crores approximately -- was received by Awasthi's brothers Amol and Anupam, and Vivek Gahlaut either in the accounts of the companies owned by them or in cash.

The CBI had received two complaints, forwarded by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, carrying identical allegations from MP Nishikant Dubey and Sudish Tripathi of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.

"It is further alleged that IFFCO set up its 100 per cent subsidiary namely Kisan International Trading FZE in Jebel Ali, Free Zonal Dubai, for importing fertilizers and other raw materials from foreign companies/ firms. One such supplier is Uralkali Trading Limited, Gibraltar (a British overseas Territory)," the CBI FIR said.

The CBI alleged that Uralkali Trading Limited, Gulf Marine and Rare Earth Group raised inflated bills in favour of Kisan International to cover bribes for Awasthi and Gahlaut.

The bribes by suppliers were routed through companies of Saxena -- Midas Metal International and others -- that justified the payments by entering into consultancy agreements without providing any consultancy work, it alleged.

Most of the commissions were received from Uralkali General Trading in the account of Midas Metal International LLC during 2012-14 and the commissions were routed under instructions of Jain and his associates.

"Subsequently, the amounts were transferred to the Awasthi brothers and Vivek Gahlaut and others by Rajeev Saxena as per the instructions of middleman Pankaj Jain. For justifying such transfers Rajeev Saxena made an agreement with Africa Strategic Advisory Services of Anupam Awasthi. Anupam Awasthi raised invoices on the companies of Rajeev Saxena for the so-called services," the FIR stated. The agency has alleged that large sums of cash and cheque payment in Arab Emirates Dirham was made from the accounts of companies of Saxena or by Saxena in his individual capacity to Amol Awasthi, Vivek Gahlaut and Pankaj Jain on Jain's instructions.

"Similar modus operandi was adopted in case of other manufacturers/suppliers wherein materials were directly shipped to India and incentives were paid through intermediaries/hawala operators,” the CBI said.

“Inputs revealed that beneficiaries of the bribe money are Amol Awasthi and Anupam Awasthi, both sons of US Awasthi and Vivek Gahlaut, son of Parvinder Singh Gahlaut, who are Non-Resident Indians living in USA," the FIR said.

The payments from Saxena were allegedly made to Catalyst Business Solution Pvt Ltd, USA, a company beneficially owned by Amol Awasthi, Thorn Lock Associates, a company beneficially owned by Vivek Gahtaut, and Terra Firma Commodities DMCC, Dubai, a company beneficially owned by Amol Awasthi and Vivek Gahlaut, without any genuine transaction, the CBI alleged.

"Such transfers were actually receipt of illegal commission generated out of import of fertilizers and raw materials by IFFCO and IPL on inflated prices," it said.

The CBI has registered a case of corruption against US Awasthi and PS Gahlaut for alleged irregularities in the import of fertilisers and claiming subsidies, officials said.

After registering the FIR, the CBI on Wednesday searched 12 locations in Delhi, Mumbai and Gurugram at the premises of Awasthi and Gahlaut, they said. Pankaj Jain, Sanjay Jain, Amrinder Dhari Singh and Saxena have also been named in FIR as accused.

The agency has also booked an employee of Pankaj Jain, Sushil Kumar Pachisia and unidentified Directors of IFFCO.

(Published 20 May 2021, 16:46 IST)

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