For­mer In­de­pen­dent Di­rec­tors of Win­some Get SFIO Sum­mons

Ex-IDBI chair­man among the 7 asked to ap­pear be­fore it later this month

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Su­gata.Ghosh @times­

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.

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