e – Voice Of Human Rights Watch – e-news weekly
Spreading the light of humanity & freedom
Editor : Nagaraj.M.R…………………….vol.2…issue.44…………………13/01/2007
Editorial : MEGA FRAUD BY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA – Rs 85 000 crore tax arrears waiver + non performing assets of banks to the tune of Rs. 200 000 crore
– An appeal to Honourable Supreme Court of India
India has become an IT power , taken giant strides in the field of science & technology. More & more MNCs are investing in India. However due to our skewed , corrupt economic system , lack of accountability on the part of corporates & public servants – a wide chasm has been created between the ultra rich & the poor , the fruits of development has all been usurped by the rich & mighty. This is the basic reason for growth of black economy , growth of naxalism , terrorism & underworld in India. As per a recent study by UN organization , majority of Indians ie more than 50 crore Indians are barely sustaining on Rs.13 per day earnings , a whole family depends upon Rs.13 , they are struggling to get just single meal per day. People are starving to death , farmers are committing suicides , people are selling their own children for a bag of grains. Whereas , corporate biggies , public servants are leading luxurious lifestyles , having big parties full of drinks , non-veg foods not at their papaa’s expense but at the expense of public exchequer , out of the tax dues , loan repayments cheated to the public exchequer.
The banks insist on matching collateral security even for self employment / educational loans by poor for an amount of Rs.5000. if the loans are not paid in time , rowdies / recovery agents are sent by banks to collect the amount by muscle power. As a final step , banks auction-off properties of collateral security to recover it’s dues. Even, the tax authorities mercilessly extract tax dues to the last penny from the middle class.
The same banks, overestimate the project cost of corporates , overestimate the project feasibility & it’s worth and coolly extend hundreds of crores of rupees loans without matching collateral security. The banks extend overdraft facilities without matching collateral securities , to these corporates. When loans are not repaid, no rowdies are sent by banks. The promoters , directors of such tainted corporates drain – off the companies resources cunningly through insider trading , finally making the company sick. Such companies don’t pay taxes , electricity bills , water bills , etc properly to respective authorities. The authorities are deaf , dumb & blind to all these actions of such corporates. At the end , banks write-off such loans as non performing assets (NPA) & file case before courts for recovery of dues. Even if the properties of collateral security are auctioned-off dues cann’t be fully realized. Finally public money is swindled . ALL THIS IS POSSIBLE DUE TO THE CONNIVANCE OF KEY BANK OFFICIALS , TAX OFFICIALS WITH CRIMINAL CORPORATES SINCE THE INCEPTION OF SUCH COMPANIES . THIS ALSO POSES UNFAIR COMPETITION TO HONEST CORPORATES. How to stop this ? by making corporate accountability ,accountability of bank , tax officials more stringent with penal provisions . afterall , they are playing with public money not their papa’s property.
Already , by the connivance of public servants , bank , tax officials we have witnessed many scams like harshad Mehta , ketan parekh , hawala , etc and more than Rs. 2000000 crore NPAs are on the books of the banks. Now, the government of India is planning to waive-off tax arrears of corporates to the tune of Rs.85000 crore , why ? read vijaya Karnataka kannada daily dated 04th January 2007. just look at this in the backdrop of “QUESTIONS FOR MONEY BY SOME MPs” and “MP LOCAL AREA DEVELOPMENT FUND ALLOCATION FOR A PRICE SCANDAL”. The government is always unresponsive , careless towards the sufferings of poor , however it is always on toes to help out corporates that too criminal ones but not honest corporates. Why ?
HRW has extended it’s services to GOI months back itself , to apprehend tax thieves , till date there is no reply from GOI , why ?
Hereby , HRW requests the Honourable Supreme Court of India to order GOI ,
1. to make necessary amendments to companies act , to make the promoters , directors of the corporates personally accountable for all their actions.
2. to constitute committees consisting of public persons with powers to scrutinize & verify all the actions of corporates for insider trading like – selling products , materials , shares to their sister concerns at discounted prices or buying products , materials , shares from their sister concerns at inflated prices or lending loans at discount rates to their sister concerns or taking loans from their sister concerns at high rate of interest or loaning materials , machines to their sister concerns , etc.
3. to constitute committees consisting of public persons , to scrutinize & verify the annual personal tax returns filed by key bank officials & tax officials , who have amassed riches & leading luxurious life styles much beyond the scope of their legal known sources of income.
4. to recover all tax dues , loan dues , etc from the corporates from the personal properties , wealth of promoters , directors of such companies.
5. to put behind bar the key bank officials who have helped the corporates in swindling public money by overestimating project viability , worth and by overlooking the insider trading of promoters and still extending loans to them.
6. to put behind bars tax officials who have helped such corporates in swindling public money.
7. to take all the necessary help from public like as services extended by HRW in apprehending tax thieves.
8. to recover & protect public money at any cost.
9. to confiscate all money , properties possessed by directors of such criminal corporates & properties of corrupt bank , tax officials , public servants.
JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.
ARE YOU SINCERELY READY TO CATCH TAX THEIVES ?
– AN APPEL TO UNION FINANCE MINISTER & KARNATAKA STATE FINANCE MINISTER
In india , tax compliance is worse. In our criminal justice system, there is rigorous imprisonment for a pick-pocketer stealing Rs.10. even the authorities spend thousands of rupees in legally prosecuting him & the thief spends a year or more as punishment behind bars. Where as there is no commensurate investigation nor legal prosecution nor punishment for corporate thieves , evading tax to the tune of crores of rupees. In contrast, those tax thieves pay a part of that booty to the ministers & political parties and get crores of rupees tax exemptions , incentives from the government. Government is rewarding corporate criminals.
The tax officials of central & state governments are hand in glove with these corporate criminals & traders. For a price, they are helping corporates & traders in evading tax. Most of the tax officials are wealthy & leading luxurious lifestyles , much beyond the scope of their legal income. The black money thus generated every year by tax evasion , is many times more than our total annual budget allocation. As a result, all our fiscal reforms fail & inflation is soaring. This black money is the source of illegal funding of political parties , terrorist outfits & underworld. It is a greater threat to national unity & integrity.
Both the central government & karnataka state government have failed to collect the full , actual tax dues from corporates & traders. As a result , the governments don’t have enough money in their coffers even to provide basic needs like health care , education , safe drinking water , etc to the poor & needy. For every Rs.100 tax evaded , one poor patient is dying without medical care , 10 poor persons lack education , 100 persons don’t get safe drinking water , 100 persons barely survive on a single piece meal per day , 20 persons starve. Most of The government officials , ministers & people’s representatives who have deliberately failed in their duties of tax collection & welfare of poor citizens , SHAMELESSLY indulge in luxurious lifestyle at the expense of poor tax payer . they live in paltial bungalows , chauffer driven AC cars , all living food expenses paid by exchequer , dine at 5-star hotels , only drink bottled mineral water , eat non-vegetarian dishes , drink alcohol sitting before mahatma gandhi’s photograph & preaching mahatma’s ideals. Mahatma preached & practiced simple living , vegetarianism & he was teto teller , he paid for his expenses from his earnings . these public servants are parasites , who are making merry at the expense of tax payer.
Some non government organisations ( NGO) have formed trusts and under the aegis of those trusts are running educational institutions , hospitals , community halls , etc , in the name of providing free / subsidised services like education , health care , etc to the poor. It is only in record books , they conduct fake medical camps , self employment training camps . in practice they are running these educational institutions , hospitals & community halls as commercial enterprises & collecting huge fees. they are not even remitting full fees collected to the trust account & swindling the money. no outsider is allowed to become a member of these NGOs , only their cronies & their family members are in these trusts.
Numerous NGOs promoted by religious bodies , mutts are swindling public & government money to the tune of crores of rupees. Nobody dares to question the heads , pontiffs of these mutts , as at his feet VVIPs , ministers fall down. These religious bodies are hot beds of fundamentalism , terrorism & mafia. Hwere is the accountability of religious bodies & political parties in in india ?
Inspite of bringing specific cases to the notice of authorities , they are mum ? hereby , HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH offers it’s services ( subject to conditions ) to the governments of india & karnataka , in apprehending the criminals – tax evaders. Are you ready mr.Chidambaram sir & mr.Yediyurappa sir ? If you are ready to do your duty look into the following cases , take appropriate action & kindly inform me about the outcome.
SCANDALS OF MOBILE PHONES & IT’S CURRENCY SALES IN INDIA
IMEI No is the unique identification of each mobile phones. It has helped police in tracking criminals , terrorists , kidnappers , etc. however nokia India & tata indicom cos are selling mobile handsets without IMEI Nos, which is a good news for criminals , bad news for the public & the government. The authorities can refer the case details of case no: CD 49/05 before the honourable consumer disputes redressal forum , mysore. Also, without mention of IMEI No in the sales bill , phones cann’t be tracked. The mobile currencies are sold without bills. A part of that currency is tax payable to the government. Mobile cos are getting that tax money from customers but are not remitting the same to the government. As the currency sales are without bill government cann’t track it’s actual tax dues. This is a huge scandal 100 times bigger than bofors to the tune of hundreds of
crores. A part of this black money is funding criminals , underworld & terrorist outfits.What TRAI is doing , sleeping ?
REQUEST TO TRAI for following information
1. what are the total number of subscribers of each mobile phone service provider both CDMA & GSM yearwise since 1998 till date ?
2. what are the total number of handsets sold since 1998 till date yearwise ? give split figures for CDMA & GSM handsets ?
3. What is the total value of currencies sold by each mobile phone service provider yearwise since 1998 till date ? give split figures for each company?
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION AS PER PROVISIONS OF RTI ACT
– An appeal to tax authorities ABOUT MOBILE PHONE SCANDALS
Case no.1 : in the year 2004 , dealer for tata indicom mobile phone service M/S INTOTO COMMUNICATIONS , kalidasa road , vv mohalla , mysore sold a nokia 2280 mobile hand set to a customer for Rs.4000 along with mobile phone connection ( bill no.41 dt 25/09/2004 ). On the box of the mobile hand set , MRP is mentioned as Rs.5799 , so either the dealer is selling the handset at discount or there is over invoicing the cost of product during import. However there is no mention of discount in the sales bill. There was no mention of 15 digit IMEI number nor there was warranty card . all these proved that , the dealer is dealing in illegal handsets either smuggled , stolen or seconds and selling them to customers as brand new genuine ones.
The matter went before the honourable consumer disputes redressal forum , mysore and the honourable forum acknowledged the illegality of the handset & ordered the dealer to refund the money with costs to the customer. The dealer has complied with the order ie accepted his wrongdoing. ( Case no : CD 49/2005 ). The issue was brought up before the CBDT , CBEC & CCT , till date no action why ?
Case no.2 : on 18/06/2006 , M/S Rajhans Novelties , surya bakery circle , hebbal , mysore – dealer for reliance mobile phones has sold a mobile connection together with handset for Rs.2060 . on the outer box of the handset cost is mentioned as MRP Rs.4000 , however he has sold it for Rs.1265 . also, the dealer has not stated the cost of lifetime voucher ie Rs.795 in the sales bill ( bill no : 1017 dt 18/06/2006 ) , there is no mention of discount in the sales bill . it is a clear case of either over invoicing of the product during import or sale of illegal handsets. The reliance infocom is not even responding to my queries & requests for written confirmation of 10 year validity. Why ? there is something amiss here .
Hereby , i do seek following information under the provisions of RTI ACT from ,the chairman of central board of excise & customs , chairman of central board of direct taxes , government of india & the commissioner , commercial taxes , government of karnataka :
1. is the handset sold through bill no:41 dt 25/09/2004 by m/s INTOTO communications , kalidasa road , vv mohalla mysore genuine one ? how much excise , customs duty & commercial taxes has been paid towards it’s import & sales ?
2. is the handset sold through bill no:1017 dt 18/06/2006 , by m/s Rajhans novelties , surya bakery circle , hebbal mysore , genuine one ? how much excise , customs duty & commercial taxes has been paid towards it’s import & sales ? specific figures needed.
3. Why the amount of life time voucher is not shown in sales bill ? why neither the company reliance infocom or it’s dealer is not giving written confirmation of 10 year incoming phone service validity inspite of collecting Rs. 795 ?
4. every business transaction needs a bill. Then why don’t the sellers of mobile phone currencies , life time cards , activation cards are not giving bills ?
5. also in these currencies , a part of currency ie money is deducted as tax by the mobile companies. Are they passing on those deducted tax amounts to the government ? when there is no track back on the sales of mobile currencies , how the government collects it’s rightful tax dues ?
6. how you are monitoring the growing riches of tax officials year after year ?
there is a huge scandal under the belly of mobile phone market , but the tax officials are mum . why ? HRW offers it’s services in apprehending tax thieves , are you ready ?
RELIANCE INDUSTRIES LIMITED – WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY?
Dear mukesh & anil ambani,
The reliance industries has always got a favourable treatment from the state & central governments.there are allegations that ,
1.years ago, the central government gave import concessions for import of certain raw materials of textile sector ,which hugely benefitted the P.F.Y & TEXTILE projects of your’s ie reliance industries.
2.the O.N.G.C which has painstakingly surveyed the oil & gas reserves & prepared a list of lists,gave that list & you got godavari basin oil & gas project from the government .O.N.G.C could have developed it & earned millions.
3.few months back you were charged both by the government & cellular operators (GSM) that you are giving S.T.D & ROAMING FACILITIES to your reliance phone subscribers.your’s was only a W.L.L. they even claimed that you are misusing a legal loophole & causing crores of losses to the government & other GSM operators. however while the issue was before the T.R.A.I, the trai legalized your actions by announcing unified licence for telecom operators.
4.now you are charged by the government of re-routing ISD CALLS as local calls,thereby causing crores of losses to the government & BSNL.this time also you may get the reprieve from the government. the government ,if a commonman does not pay his electric bills in time slaps interest & cuts down the electric supply immediately.
however the same government ,even if your company has been alleged of causing crores of rupees losses to the government & other players, always enacts favourable laws for you like a SANTA CLAUS.
WILL YOU PLEASE CLARIFY mr.mukesh ambani & mr.anil ambani?
the TRAI announced unified licence regime in haste that too with retrospective effects.so all the charges against reliance were dropped. in the same vein as unified licence got retrospective effect , why not the government re-imburse the differece amount out of hefty fees collected from other cellular operators ? take the reliance fees as bench mark.anyway , finally commonman is the looser.
QUESTIONS FOR MONEY – PARLIAMENTARY ACTS/LEGISLATIONS FOR ????
-improper functioning of democracy in india
the vohra committee report has proved the criminalisation of politics in india. There are many number of criminals in the parliament & state legislatures. Some of those criminals are cabinet ministers as well as members of vital parliamentary committees. Thereby, they are in a position to manipulate , enact laws favouring , benefitting the criminals their cronies.
Just see how the GOI gave export incentive of Rs.1800 crore to reliance petroleum although it didn’t even export a barrel. Reliance infocom & tata teleservices were CDMA mobile service providers & have paid license fee of few crores only equal to landline fees without any competitive bidding . They were supposed to provide mobile service to operate like fixed phones within a radius of 40k.m. however they were providing service like mobile service from one state to another like GSM mobile service providers. By this act of RIC & TTSL , the GSM providers who have paid thousands of license fee in competitive bidding were economically hurt , the dispute went to court. The court was on the verge of pronouncing it’s verdict awarding damages worth Rs.18000 crore to GSM players & Rs. 3000 crore of license fees with penalty to GOI. The government announced a unified telecom license regime with retrospective effect. Thereby, the GOI lost thousands of crores of rupees & the share holders of GSM players lost thousands of crores. Onceagain the RIC was charged by PSU bsnl THAT RELIANCE IS RE-ROUTING INTERNATIONAL CALLS AS LOCAL CALLS & SWINDLING THE GOI. This time too, GOI bailed it out. during the dispute between ambani brothers the younger ambani mr. Anil ambani director of reliance himself has stated that for the favours received from the GOI , the company gifted some shares to then IT & COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER mr. Pramod mahajan.
Various indian & multinational companies are looting indian exchequer to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees , through lobbying / bribing.
In india, indirect democracy is the form of governance. In this form, people’s representatives are bound to raise the questions , issues concerning their constituents on their behalf , on the floor of the house. However the sad part in india even after 58 years of democracy , is the lobbying is at it’s peak. The lobbying is a gentleman’s white collared crook’s way of forming favour seeker’s group , creating a corpus to pay lumpsum bribe & influencing decision making.
The people’s representatives are bound to represent their people first , then their party & party think tanks. India has come to this sorry state of affairs , widespread corruption , huge black economy & rampant poverty, all due to inefficient legislations & enforcements. These think tanks & IAS lobby, consider themselves as most super brains on earth & gives out suggestions . the present state of affairs is a barometer of their brilliance. These think tanks & IAS lobby are the hand maidens of lobbyists / bribers.
Now consider the following example :
Mr.raj gandhi is a member of parliament from mandya constituency in karnataka state. He is a MBA graduate & member of ruling indian progressive party. The multinational giant M/S GREY HOUND CORPORATION wants to enter into paper manufacturing business in india. It’s sight falls on the public sector paper giant mandya national paper mills ( MNPM) in mandya district of karnataka. The MNC effectively lobbies with the government. The ruling party think tank & the cabinet advisory group recommends to the government to make strategic disinvestment in the PSU M/S MNPM. They bring out graph with full power point presentation stating that it is good for the company as well as the government. The lobbyists follows it up with media reports on the positive aspect of strategic disinvestment. A favourable impression is created in the minds of literate public. The cabinet committee okays it.
The ” strategic dis investment issue ” comes before the parliament for legislation / approval. The ruling party issues a party whip to it’s members to vote in favour of dis investment. However M.P mr.raj gandhi who is an MBA in his own wisdom also favours the dis investment. However ,most importantly the constituents – people in mandya parliamentary constituency through protest marches , mass post card campaigns lakhs in numbers expresses their disagreement with the dis investment & urges their MP mr.gandhi to vote against the disinvestment legislation.
On the D-day in parliament , mr. Raj gandhi as per his party whip & his own wisdom votes in favour of strategic disinvestment legislation, much against the wishes of his people , constituents & mis represents them in parliament. the democracy has failed here. in This way democracy is being derailed since 58 years in india.
In democracy, party whip , MP or MLA’s own wisdom / brilliance, think tank & IAS lobby recommendations are all secondary , the constituent’s of his constituency , people’s wishes aspirations are of primary importance & supreme. What people need is a honest representative, who simply delivers the people’s aspirations on the floor of the house back & forth , without superimposing it with his own ideas & party ideas. For true democracy , the people’s representatives must be true postmans.
Towards this end , the people must be educated about their democratic rights & responsibilities. This is an appeal to the honest few in the parliament & state legislatures to weed out their corrupt colleagues , lobbyists, to uphold the dignity of the house & to install democracy in it’s true form.
THREAT TO INDIA’S SECURITY BY CORPORATE CRIMINALS
– An appeal to honourable prime minister of india & honourable chief minister of karnataka
In india , since ages certain section of people – dalits , tribals are being oppressed in the name of caste by forward caste people. The name sake independence has not changed the lives of dalits & tribals. The upper caste people were in control of government & economic sector before independence as well as after independence too. The upper caste people are now MPs , MLAs & are running businesses . they have framed rules , laws to suit their ends. They are getting bank loans , subsidies , tax cuts , etc , by greasing the palms of those in power – their own caste men. The reservation policy is just a vote winning gimmick of forward caste politicians , it is neo divide & rule policy. Only few dalits with money & contacts have benefitted , by the reservation policy of government. Majority of them are still sufferring from utter poverty & social oppression.
Now, due to rapid industrialisation & globalisation a new economic divide has taken place – rich & poor , haves & have nots. Now, economically poor are also being oppressed along with dalits. The forward caste people in government have framed laws to suit their ends , they have provided concessional priority loans , tax cuts , subsidies , etc from the government to corporate sector . The corporate sector has demanded & got monetary benefits , infrastructure facilities from the government . however the same corporates , MNCs are violating statuotary laws & are averse to social welfare measures of the government . they are averse to provide jobs to dalits , tribals & poor , why ? these corporates are bribing the labour , tax department & other government officials . as a result the government is loosing tax revenues to the tune of thousands of crores every year , the government doesn’t have money to provide social welfare measures to common people. The lives of common people are under threat. Now,
the number of common people dying due to starvation , lack of health care is more than in a war field. The threat to unity & integrity of india is more from the corporate sector than pakistan or china.
Now, the government of india & other state governments are literally under corporate control. HRW has brought to the notice of government cases of statuotary law violations by various corporate entities ,
till date no action has been taken. Why ? hereby , HRW once again offers it’s conditional services to the government of india & karnataka in apprehending corporate criminals , corrupt tax , labour , pollution control board offricials. Are you ready sir ????
COVERING-UP CORPORATE FRAUDS IN INDIA
– CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY & CORPORATE GOVERNANCE NEED OF THE HOUR
In India , most of the commercial ventures cheat the government of it’s rightful tax dues. As a result the governments doesn’t have enough money to carryout it’s social welfare duties – Providing health care , food , potable water to all. In turn common people are dying due to lack of health care , hunger , mal nutrition , etc. the murderers of these commoners are TAX EVADING CORPORATES , the politicians & officials keep mum by taking bribe.
Nowadays , even the underworld activities of mafia , terrorist outfits , political parties are being financed by the illegal corporate deals. Who says threat to India is from Pakistan only , it is most likely from our own entrepreneur. Till date the GOI has not put any corporate bigwigs behind bars for their crimes. The corporate lobby always clamours for flexible labour laws , credit policies as in U.S.A , but are mum about SOCIAL SECURITY NET , ENVIRONMENT POLICY & CORPORATE GOVERNANCE as in the same U.S.A. Why ?
Recently , it has been published that , in India out of vast sales of counterfeit MOVIE CDs & software CDs , underworld is funding narcotics trade , terrorist movements. It is high time the small investors , public became aware about the activities of their neighbouring businessmen / Entrepreneurs.
CORPORATE FRAUDS IN INDIA
`Forget terrorism, I want to be an accountant’ Osama Bin Laden, `quoted’ in Private Eye.
CORPORATE frauds have becomes a global phenomenon. There is a crisis of confidence arising from the failure of the pillars of the capitalist system such as the stock market, financial analyst and accountants and the investment banks.
From Harshad Mehta to Ketan Parekh and further down to Madhavapura Co-operatives in 2002, it is a familiar story of a few corporate heads indulging in creative accounting with the sole object of enriching themselves at the cost of the lower middle-class investors.
Almost every corporate giant in India has been accused of violating business ethics and indulging in corporate mis-governance. “For every fall from virtue,” confessed Mr Mukesh Ambani, “there is a seducer. Millions can be offered only when billions can be made”.
India, however, shares the distinction of being in the company of Corporate America. Enron (fraud of $591 million), WorldCom (fraud of $3.8 billion), Adelphia (off-balance sheet loans of $3.1 billion), Xerox ($6 billion) and a host of other corporates have been caught red-handed. The investment advisor, Merrill Lynch, confessed to giving false advice to the public about investments and compounded the offence by paying $100 million.
Fortune magazine displayed a table of CEOs as felons and suggested that there should be a list of 500 worst-managed corporates in the World. India will take a number of ranks in such a list if prepared.
The American scene
Despite the powerful Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Internal Revenue Service not found wanting in handing out deterrent punishments, audit firms such as Arthur Andersen and KPMG, went hand in glove with corporate houses to fudge accounts to the detriment of the public at large, which forced the US President, Mr George W. Bush, to inaugurate the new Corporate Fraud Task Force and declare: “This Government will investigate, will arrest and will prosecute corporate executives who break the law.”
“Infectious greed,” said Mr Alan Greenspan. Ralph Nader was more accurate. “It is impossible to exaggerate the super market of crimes. It is greed on steroids.” The American Congress passed a Corporate Accountability Act in July 2002. Ralph Nader suggested the setting up of a Federal Bureau of Audits to monitor the top thousand companies. As India grapples with the crises of confidence posed by the failure of so-called pillars of the capitalist system such as investment banks, analysts, accountants, and Dalal Street, it is time to rework the regulatory mechanism and ensure a fool-proof system under which conflict of interest will not arise for audit firms and there will be transparency about financial crashes. There is much in the present American scene that India can look for guidance.
In August 2002, the US Government promulgated an unprecedented order forcing top managements of hundreds of giant companies to swear by past financial results. The order covered 945 companies, including giant corporations such as AOL Time Warner and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The SFC of UK
The British Government set up the Serious Frauds Office in 1987 to be responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex frauds. The Attorney-General appoints and superintends its directors. Serious and complex fraud cases can go straight to the Crown Court without committal for trial. That Court can hold preparatory hearings to clarify issues for the jury and settle points of law. Time is of the essence of investigation and the success rate of the UK Serious Fraud Office is 71 per cent in obtaining conviction.
Even in the US, convictions are secured against CEOs within two years of the launching of prosecution. Contrast this scenario with the situation in India. Despite the constitution of Special Courts to investigate the securities fraud, no conviction has been secured.
The Indian scene
It is unbelievable that the hundreds and thousands of “whistle-blowers” from board directors to corporate insiders and the accounting firms and the credit-rating agencies were kept in the dark about the goings-on in the Indian financial world.
How did the system ensure such effective silence on the part of so many involved in the deals? How come a few corporate houses were able to rush to the UTI in time to retrieve their investments — a privilege denied to the low-level pensioners eking out their livelihood from the Monthly Income Plans? What is the JPC’s answer?
Every time a scam erupts, we seem to be satisfied with the ordering of a probe by the Joint Parliamentary Committee whose report, delivered long after the event, is consigned to the parliamentary libraries without any worthwhile action being taken
Rule of Law
We have a queer sense of the rule of law. A murder accused does not have as many chances of filing appeals in higher fora of law as financial fraudsters.
Our jurisprudence is yet to march in step and act as per the urgent needs of a society plagued by white-collar crimes. Macaulay’s Penal Code is incapable of meeting the requirements of this century.
We need a new radical jurisprudence. Financial crimes are no less heinous than the crimes dealt with by the Code of Criminal Procedure. We need a new law to tackle such financial crimes. It is a sad fact of life that the Economic Offences Courts, set up with much fanfare two decades back, have proved a damp squib.
The Government of India has set up the Corporate Governance Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary. The panel will no doubt examine and suggest changes in accounting practices, regulation of auditors and the supervisory mechanism for over seeing corporate Governance.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India cannot shirk its responsibility when so many accounting frauds are being exposed. Why is not the Indian accounting standard harmonised with the international accounting practices?
The ICAI has been dormant for several decades as can be seen from the fact that in the first two decades of the formation of the accounting standards board, the ICAI issued only 15 accounting standards; it woke up in the past two years and rushed with 12 more standards and more are in the offing.
Whereas these standards were not mandatory in the initial years SEBI has made it compulsory for the entire corporate sector to fall in line and comply with these accounting standards.
It is in this context that the need for internalising our accounting standards arises. We can also emulate the US example and establish a permanent Public Accountability Board. It is also necessary that SEBI is vested with powers similar to those enjoyed by the SEC in the US.
The Proposed Serious Frauds Office should act as a coordinator along with SEBI, the RBI, the CLB and the Union Revenue Intelligence Wing. And,finally, can we ever visualise any leading corporate fraudster in India being handcuffed for being led to jail?
Yet, that Bastion of Democracy and Rule of Law — the US — was able to haul up the founder of Adelphia Communications and his sons in handcuffs in front of a bank of television cameras.
ITC Scam – Corporate Crimes and the Indian Big Bourgeoisie
The revelation of the multicrore fraud by the Indian corporate giant, ITC by way of excise evasion and FERA violation, has put in sharp relief the hollowness of the recent rhetorics by the big bourgeoisie, viz. Swadeshi, economic nationalism etc. The company’s $100 million foreign exchange and Rs.799 crore excise-evasion fraud and the other recent findings from the raids at Shaw Wallace & Company (Rs.150 crores siphoned off by its NRI owner) and leading export house, Ganapati Exports (over Rs.85 crores of over-invoicing) focus light on the ingenuous and multifarious tricks of corporate fraud, many of which have been standardised as `prudent’ business practices.
Less than a year back, when the multinational BAT Industries, the principal non-institutional shareholder in ITC (with about 32% stakes), had first forced the then chairman KL Chugh to resign and then opposed Chugh’s man, YC Deveshwar for the post, in an attempt to gain total control over the company, the former chairman draped the tricolour and the whole bourgeoisie and the media lauded it as the heroic defiance of a `nationalist’ corporate against a `neo-colonial’ British multinational’s threats to takeover ITC. However, those who harboured these illusions have received their worst shock with the unfolding of India’s biggest EXIM fraud. Probably, greater and many more such frauds still lie unexposed. Now BAT is back in its takeover game with the takeover war getting dirtier and dirtier bringing all the corporate muck before the public glare. While the government seems to be readily obliging the multinational in its covert game, sending signals to foreign capital regarding `the level playingfield’ of a different order, the ITC top brass who tumbled down like nine pins, and their fraternity across the corporate world, have come to realise that Swadeshi can hardly come to their rescue when they have so many skeletons up their corporate boards.
But the ITC affair serves to highlight certain general characteristics of the big bourgeoisie. For one thing, it has established that corporate boards are dens of thieves. Unwilling to fight what now they describe as archaic FERA rules and regulations unsuited to the modern world of business, these corporate houses preferred to park funds outside the country illegally to carry on what they claim `normal’ business practices. Despite their clamour for liberalisation, in reality, they have one-sided preference for only certain liberalisation measures and start squealing, invoking Swadeshi invariably, the moment MNCs mount an assault for takeover, but they are little amenable to any strict framework of corporate accountability to the shareholders.
The claim on ITC due to excise fraud, along with a Rs.74 crore penalty, for just a four-year period, is the biggest excise claim ever served on a company. Excise evasion is not new to the corporate world and various corporate laws have been given the go by time and again. According to the Directorate-General of Anti-Evasion, the amount of excise evasion detected rose from Rs.562 crore to Rs.1,236 crore in the liberalisation period 1991-92 to 1995-96. This in spite of the fact that during this period excise and custom barriers have been reduced and the hold of the `suffocative’ rules loosened. But our bourgeoisie which loses no chance to adorn the `nationalist’ cloak whenever it comes to foreign takeover bid or opening up of new sectors for FDI, has been consistently devising new methods for evasions. As in the case of ITC, where the company, deliberately for years, maintained a pricing strategy that kept higher effective prices than the maximum retail prices marked on their cigarette packets. Even in the case of exporters who were allowed to import without having to apply for foreign exchange under the liberalised regime, willful violations took place like over-invoicing export bills to pick up the tax concessions on exports. About 605 such cases have been detected by the authorities in the last four years, a period when under the new tax set-offs, EXIM violations should have come down.
The ITC episode also puts a question mark on the role of financial institutions (FIs). In this particular case FIs had put their weight behind Chugh when it came to oppose BAT’s move to raise their holdings to 51% — a seemingly patriotic gesture of supporting domestic crooks for the cause of warding off `imperialism’. As a rule most of the nominees of these FIs and the supposedly watchdog bodies like SEBI and CLB sitting in the boards of these companies have remained passive and have hardly taken interest in checking the massive bungling going on in corporate houses, even though collectively they command majority stakes, 35.5% as in the case of ITC. While many FIs complain being under-staffed organisations and having lack of resources for research and investigation, the government too has deliberately pruned their powers — they cannot impose penalties on erring companies which can only be done by courts.
With majority stakes, FIs can effectively prevail over the management to impose strict business discipline. Instead, as was revealed in the case of MS Shoes, another irregularity taking place with alarming regularity has been to make FIs give loans against insufficient collaterals. It is estimated that such unsecured loans in the excess of Rs.4,000 crore lie unrecovered. With forex-starved coffers and also pressures from MNCs and specially after India’s surrender at the WTO ministerial meet, it cannot be ruled out that in the future political pressures will be exerted to bring around the FIs to ease the way for raising the stakes of foreign shareholding companies even over 51% or pave way for FIIs for full takeover. The recent SEBI norms on takeovers which describe them as a perfectly healthy business practice in a competitive economy, has already set things in that direction.
Why the crackdown now? The excise evasions which came to light way back in 1992 had been in the cognisance of the enforcement agencies since then but it took them four years to crackdown on the company now on FERA violations after going soft on massive excise frauds. The Chitalia brothers, partners in crime but subsequently fallen apart with ITC, had spilled the beans and their subsequent filing a law-suit against the latter for damages and defamation had already piled up pressure on the enforcement agencies to make the much delayed crackdown on the company. With the country witnessing activism from the judiciary and the enforcement agencies the raids at ITC offices throughout India and the arrests of 2 former chairmen and 8 executive directors, made sensational headlines and gave the impression that a generalised crackdown on corporate crimes may be in the offing.
However, to radicalise it as an Armageddon of the bourgeois state against the erring individual members of the class is wishful thinking. One, these revelations are but the tip of the iceberg of thousands of crores that the corporate crooks have swindled for years. Two, corporate crime does not take place without the sanction of politicians and bureaucrats, with whom the bourgeoisie share a reciprocal symbiosis. Deve Gowda was quick to go all out to allay fears of the industry that a spate of raids were to follow or this was a new `raid-raj’. Even a shaky Bal Thackrey was seen assuaging the fears of his corporate friends. Even at the time of VP Singh as FM, all talk of cleaning up the corporate world fizzled out after few initial raids on business houses like Kirloskars etc. Sometimes, the bourgeois state does crackdown on some individual members of the ruling class, politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats etc., and usually those who would go a bit too far, in the overall interests of the class and class rule. And the media laps this up as the widening dragnet of a neutral state though the holes are so big that the majority escape and only a few are netted. One of the biggest crooks, Reliance Industries was let off the hook recently when the CLB granted permission for compounding of all offences (28 cases out of 29) in the duplicate share certificates and share-switching scandal.
Even the press at large, though with a mild condemnation of ITC’s corrupt practices, was sympathising with ITC calling it a victim of imperialist conspiracy and wishing Deveshwar to bring back a `respectable’ and `India’s very own’ multinational back on the tracks. Most of the parties, including the left partners of UF, were rather reserved in their reactions. Instead of demanding of the government to continue with the crackdown on other corporate defaulters, some of the left MPs from CPI-CPI(M) who spoke up individually, only spoke of this as a BAT-Chitalias inspired crackdown on ITC. After all, these are the parties which theorised that Indian big bourgeoisie is opposed to liberalisation in the context of Bombay Club and it is the CPI(M) veteran EMS who characterised the UF as an alliance of communists and progressive and forward-looking bourgeoisie. The ITC experience should serve as an eye-opener for these opportunist leftists to cast away their illusions about the Swadeshi bourgeoisie and the government of the`forward-looking’ bourgeoisie. Can a bunch of crooks be the leaders of economic nationalism in India?
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