Satinder Paul Dhillon has been fighting for his right to say the truth in the face of court orders, which led to criminal contempt proceedings being initiated against him.
In a few days from now, 36 year old Satinder Singh Dhillon, a Canadian citizen born to Indian origin parents, will know his fate under the Contempt Law in Canada. His case stems from an involuntary bankruptcy proceeding against Mr Erwin Braich, which was initiated all the way back in 1999, as Mr Dhillon says, in an attempt to extort Mr Braich. KPMG was engaged as the administrator of the allegedly insolvent's assets, Mr Dhillon was one of the creditors to the allegedly insolvent party and was owed $3 million at the time. Mr Dhillon has pointed out over the years of the proceedings that KPMG has not executed the court's orders on the involuntary bankruptcy for over 14 years, making it the longest running bankruptcy case in Canada.
In 2009, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia passed an order which said, “all persons having notice of this Order shall not, either directly or indirectly, make or continue to make or continue any publication of any kind including in a pleading which expresses any disparaging or defamatory statements about the Trustee, or any other person or entity connected to the administration of this bankruptcy." The trustee in this case was KPMG, the global consulting giant.
However, It is alleged that Mr Dhillon later published a blog titled “KPMG Stifles Freedom of Speech in Desperate Move.” Consequently, Satinder Dhillon was arrested and interrogated under section 127 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which deals with contempt of court. Mr Dhillon, a businessman and an activist himself, has been through various health troubles in the course of this fight. Finally, on 17 September 2014, the court convened to rule on whether “truth can be used as a defence” in cases of contempt.
Mr Dhillon has been arguing his own case, sometimes dramatically appearing in court with a wheelchair and a yoga mat and pillow handy in case he collapsed. There is bound to be more drama with Mark Stephens, lawyer of Wikileak's founder Julian Assange joining the last phase of his defence, along with Mumbai based advocate Jamshed Mistry, who even stood up for Mr Dhillon at the last hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on 17th September.
Contempt laws have been decried as draconian and unfair all over the world. A vestige of the colonial past, it was recently in the limelight following Justice Katju's tirade against contempt laws. In this present case too says Mr Dhillon, “the arguments being presented will be to see if truth is allowed as a defence in this great nation!(sic)”
In contempt cases like that of Sahara's Subroto Roy, the court eventually acted against him when his disobedience of court orders was clear. The prosecutor on behalf of the Crown (Canadian state still pleads under the Crown) has argued that Mr Dhillon's alleged actions directly disobeyed the court's instruction. “I am fed up with being treated as a second class citizen and having to live at the whim of KPMG's power in this country,” he said in a release uploaded on the internet.
Finally, the judgement will test whether Mr Dhillon's arguments that his freedom of expression has been impinged, and in exercise of his freedom of expression whether a contempt law can ignore the contents of what is said or written. Mr Dhillon insists that what is written is true and in public interest, therefore the contempt proceedings are not justified and that the larger public good is also compromised by not allowing him to speak out against KPMG's actions. Mr Dhillon also alleges that KPMG is involved in trying to cover up what could quite possibly be the largest income tax fraud in the history of Canada. The well-known Mumbai-based lawyer Jamshed Mistry has been helping Mr Dhillon and has also appeared for him in the court.
Based on an allegation by Golf Technologies, a Magistrate's Court directed Delhi Police to issue notices to Axis Bank's CEO and its top officials with regard to a fraudulent transfer of Rs19.89 crore from its term loan account to that of Tulip Telecom. Golf Technologies alleges collusion because the sum transferred was allegedly shown as debt recovery by the Bank
Following direction from the Metropolitan Magistrate court, the Delhi police have filed a first information report (FIR) against Shikha Sharma, chief executive of Axis Bank as well as its chief operating officer and several senior officials of the Bank. The Court had also asked the police to conduct an investigation into a complaint filed by Golf Technologies (P) Ltd in an alleged fraud of Rs20 crore.
In the complaint, Delhi-based Golf Technologies alleged that the Bank officials forged signature of its director to release Rs19.89 crore from the company's term loan account to current account of a third party. The Company alleged that by forging signatures of its director Sandeep Sagar on a letter of instruction, the Bank transferred the money.
"It is her (alleged) signatures which have been shown to exist by the Bank on the alleged 'Letter of Instruction for Rs19.89 crore allegedly dated 31 December 2012, which is forged and which alleged letter has been forged and brought into existence by the accused Bank and its Officers on the day when this complainant (Sandeep Sagar) was not even in Delhi i.e. 31 December 2012," the complaint reads.
Besides Axis Bank and Shikha Sharma, the complaint mentions names of Siddarth Rath, president and chief operating officer of the Bank. Names of Anil Agrawal, circle head for New Delhi, Sharad Gupta, deputy vice president, Sankar Narayana Sarma, senior vice president, Vivek Bhat, vice president in credit/loans department, deputy vice presidents and relationship managers Deepa Rath, Sanjeev Kumar Singh, Vagish Rawal are also mentioned in the complaint.
Golf Technologies had also mentioned 14 other members of the Axis Bank Board in its complaint.
In its reply, an official spokesperson from Axis Bank, said, "A notice under The Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act has been issued against the Borrower for having defaulted in meeting its repayment obligations and the Bank is taking suitable action in this regard. The matter as reported is also being reviewed by our legal team. The bank follows robust systems and processes and believes in maintaining high standards in customer delivery, which are fully compliant with existing regulations."
According to the complaint, Golf Technologies had a relationship with Tulip Telecom Ltd from whom it had drawn about Rs27 crore in 2009 as advance to finance acquisition of a property at Mumbai that was to be developed as data centre. To complete construction of the data centre, Golf Technologies secured a credit facility of Rs50 crore from Axis Bank in September 2012.
Out of the sanctioned credit, Golf Technologies withdrew Rs30 crore in September 2012 itself by instruction the Bank to transfer the money from its term loan account into its current account. "Thereafter, the bank.... surreptitiously released the remaining loan sum of Rs20 crore on 31 December 2012 into the current account of the company with them," the complaint says.
Golf Technologies alleged that the Bank and its officials, then using the 'forged' letter of instruction transferred Rs19.89 crore from a 'fictitious current account number' in the company's name to cash credit account of Tulip Telecom. "Once the funds belonging to Golf Technologies were in their uninterrupted and continuing dominion (albeit, now in the cash-credit account of Tulip), from this transferee account and reportedly acting without any authority from Tulip either, they then reportedly proceeded to appropriate a sum of Rs19.64 crore towards alleged liabilities and/or transactions of the said company (Tulip) towards themselves," it said.
It further said, "Enquiries made by the complainants have revealed that despite this reduction in Tulip's drawings, they (the Bank) have refused to allow Tulip to draw further funds from the Bank within its sanctioned limits, but at the same time, have not released their charge proportionately over its properties."
"Therefore, it is crystal clear that this fraudulently-executed transfer of Rs19.89 crore from Golf Technologies to Tulip was intended to benefit only the accused Bank and its conspiring officers, who have taken personal credit for having recovered sums from Tulip for the benefit of the accused Bank," the complaint filed by Golf Technologies said.
The company also alleged that despite several requests, the Bank did not provide statement of its current and term loan accounts.
A 'serious' staff crunch at CBI is causing a problem in speeding up the probe against the multi-crore chit fund scam involving several politicians from West Bengal
The Special Crime Branch of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which started probing the Saradha multi-crore rupees Ponzi scheme scam four months ago, would file the first charge sheet by October end.
According to a senior official from CBI, by the end of October, the agency will file the first chargesheet on the basis of evidence it obtained after a series of arrests and interrogations.
The first charge sheet would cover a part of the investigations and those persons against whom adequate evidence had been found, he said.
The agency was probing aspects like criminal conspiracy, misappropriation of funds and criminal breach of trust in the Saradha episode.
He said so far the agency had arrested ten and interrogated numerous people to probe the conspiracy behind the scam, which left thousands of depositors cheated.
CBI had also summoned West Bengal Textiles Minister Shyamapada Mukherjee and painter Shuvoprasanna, a person close to the top Trinamool Congress leadership, in connection with the crime, the official said.
It would also grill those whose names had cropped during the interrogation of the accused.
Asked whether CBI would be deterred from interrogating influential political persons whose names surfaced in the probe fearing backlash, the official said "We are not at all concerned about what will happen. Our director has clearly told us that whomsoever is found to be guilty of offence should be interrogated. Nobody will be spared and we cannot afford to do so".
He said 'serious' staff crunch was causing a problem in speeding up the probe. "Only nine to ten officers are engaged in the Saradha probe. This is not sufficient.