Former Independent Directors of Winsome Get SFIO Summons
Ex-IDBI chairman among the 7 asked to appear before it later this month
Mumbai: The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the government agencywhich specialises in the investigation of white collar crimes, has summoned former IDBI chairman GP Gupta and six other ex-independent directors of Winsome — the diamantaire, which along with group companyForever, has been categorised by banks as India’s second-largest wilful defaulter after Mallya’s Kingfisher. The other former board members of Winsome are Madan Khurjekar (an academic), Sarad Bhagwat (chartered accountant), Dilip Tikle (IT consultant), Urvashi Saxena (former Income tax commissioner), Srilekha Parikh and Ratnakar Hegde (former banker).
They will have to appear before SFIO later this month, a person aware of the development told ET. SFIO has also asked them to share their personal tax returns for the past seven years.
None of the independent directors responded to text messages from ET. Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery, a listed company, and group firm Forever owe .₹ 6,800 crore to 15 banks in India. Till now, government agencies such as CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED), which have been probing the Winsome default for close to two years, have made little headway. Winsome group promoter Jatin Mehta has surrendered his Indian passport, investigators are unclear about the money trail, and authorities in UAE, where Winsome had
major dealings, have not responded to Letters Rogatory issued by CBI and ED. Unlike Kingfisher or other defaulters, Winsome group may not have adequate assets that banks can attach to salvage loans.
Banks, led by consortium leader Standard Chartered, had issued standby letters of credit — or SBLC, which are similar to guarantees — in favour of international bullion banks which supplied gold to Winsome Group. The arrangement was if Winsome failed to pay the bullion banks, Indian banks would step in to pay for the gold consignment. The agreement between Winsome and the bullion banks was such that a single default could accelerate the repayment and encashment of the quasi-guarantees. The local lenders took a hit after Winsome defaulted in the summer of 2013 as the bullion banks encashed the guarantees. Other banks in the consortium are PNB (which has the highest exposure), Bank of Maharashtra, Canara,
Central, Exim, Oriental, State Bank of Hyderabad, Union, Axis, Vijaya, Bank of India, State Bank of Mauritius, IDBI and Syndicate. Among the lenders, State Bank of Mauritius is believed to have negotiated a loan settlement. About a month ago CBI interrogated a former executive director of Forever in response to a complaint filed by Canara Bank. Promoter Jatin Mehta, who had resigned from the boards of the companies well before the defaults, has so far failed to appear before ED. Mehta, who is now based in Dubai, told the agency last year that he was making efforts to recover funds and submitting all the information sought by the government agencies.
Winsome had said that it could not repay banks following huge derivative losses suffered by its UAE clients. All the 13 Dubai clients which failed to pay up were controlled by one Haytham Ali Salman Abu Obidah, a Jordanian national based in Dubai. But most banks have not bought the story.