BPCL not to buy Iranian oil till payment issue is resolved

BPCL, which last year began buying 20,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Iran, was last month refused permission by Turkey’s state-controlled Halkbank to open an account similar to ones Indian refiners like Essar Oil and Mangalore Refinery use for paying to Iran

New Delhi: State-run oil marketing and refining major Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) has suspended crude oil purchase from Iran after Turkey refused to route its payments, sending India to scramble for alternative methods to pay its second largest oil supplier, reports PTI.

BPCL, which last year began buying 20,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Iran, was last month refused permission by Turkey’s state-controlled Halkbank to open an account similar to ones Indian refiners like Essar Oil and Mangalore Refinery use for paying to Iran.

Highly placed sources said BPCL, which could not pay $107 million to Iran on the due date of 12th December, has decided to stop buying from Tehran till a payment mechanism is finalised.

BPCL would make up for the shortfall from countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Indian refiners began using Halkbank to pay Iran in July last year after Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scrapped a long-standing mechanism of payment through central banks.

New Delhi fears Turkey may come under pressure to halt the conduit after US imposed fresh round of sanctions against Iran and European Union was slated to announce tough measures in this regard on its own at the end of the month.

Sources said refiners and oil ministry officials today discussed alternative methods to pay for Iranian oil imports.

An Indian delegation comprising of officials from RBI, oil ministry, finance ministry and refiners would visit Tehran on 16th January to discuss alternative modes and routes.

Refiners have already begun talks with alternative suppliers to slowly replace some quantity of the 3,70,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil they buy from Iran.

MRPL, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil at 1,42,000 bpd, has not yet contracted any supplies for the year beginning April.

India is Iran’s second-largest crude buyer, taking about 3,52,000 bpd, or 13.5% of Iran’s 2.6 million bpd of exports. New Delhi currently pays the world's fourth largest oil producer about $1 billion every month through Turkey.

Sources said possibility of paying Iran in rupee or through yen payments would be discussed in the 16th January meeting.

Routing payments through Russia was discussed during the visit of prime minister Manmohan Singh to Moscow last month.

However, Russia has so far not agreed to route payments for India due to the ‘complexities’ involved.

US president Barack Obama signed a Bill into law late last month empowering US authorities to impose penalties on foreign banks dealing with the Central Bank of Iran to settle oil import payments.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon last week discussed alternative payment routes with officials from the ministries of finance, petroleum and external affairs.

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SC admits Sahara’s plea; stay on SAT order to continue

The Sahara group informed the Supreme Court that it has filed affidavit explaining that it will protect the interests of 2.3 crore investors who have put in their money in Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (now known as Sahara Commodity Services Corporation) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday admitted the Sahara group’s plea challenging the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) order directing its two companies to refund around Rs17,400 crore to their investors, and extended its interim order to stay tribunal’s decision till further date, reports PTI.

Admitting Sahara’s plea, a bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia listed the matter for further hearing on 20th January 20.

The group informed the court that it has filed affidavit explaining that it will protect the interests of 2.3 crore investors who have put in their money in Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (now known as Sahara Commodity Services Corporation) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation.

The bench had earlier on 28th November asked the companies to place before it their 2010-11 balance sheets and statements of accounts for November 2011 by Monday.

“Net worth of the companies particularly assets against which liability has been created, financial statements including balance sheets of 2010-11 and statements of accounts of the companies of November 2011 shall be mentioned in the affidavit,” the bench had said.

The apex court had earlier issued notices to the central government and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) seeking their response on Sahara’s plea challenging SAT’s 18th October order, directing it to refund the money, raised through optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCD) to investors within six weeks.

It extended till 8th January the time limit set by SAT, which had passed the order on the Sahara group’s appeal against the SEBI's June order asking the group’s firms to return the money, collected from investors through financial instrument OFCD, on grounds of violation of regulatory norms.

The stock market regulator had also restrained the two entities from accessing the securities market for raising funds till payments were made to the satisfaction of SEBI.

The two companies and its promoter Subrata Roy Sahara, and the directors—Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary—were told jointly and severely to refund the collected money.

The company had then approached the Supreme Court which asked it to approach the tribunal.

While dismissing the appeal, the SAT had held that the market regulator has jurisdiction over such fund-raising schemes.

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CIC directs president’s secretariat to disclose info on black money

The order came following an appeal by an RTI applicant who had sought to know the action taken report on the letters written by him to finance and external affairs ministries, among other public authorities, in connection with the illegal wealth stashed abroad

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the president’s secretariat to disclose details of correspondence among various ministries and Delhi Police related to black money, reports PTI.

The order came following an appeal by an RTI applicant who had sought to know the action taken report on the letters written by him to finance and external affairs ministries, among other public authorities, in connection with the illegal wealth stashed abroad.

During the hearing, the appellant also submitted that he was mainly interested to get from the office of the president secretariat the file notings concerning their correspondence with the banking division, ministry of finance, ministry of external affairs and the Delhi Police.

“It seems the appellant had written a number of letters— to various authorities regarding—the Indian citizens illegally depositing black money in various ‘foreign banks ... The Central Public Information Officer (of the president secretariat) had provided him with some information while advising him to approach the remaining authorities to know about the action taken by each one of them.

“After carefully considering the facts of the case, we do not see any problem in disclosing this information,” India's Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra said in his order.

The CIC further directed the CPIO to provide information within 10 working days including photocopies of the file notings from the relevant files in which his letters had been processed and correspondence made with the banking division, ministry of finance, MEA and the Delhi Police.

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