Citizens' Issues
Essar group allegedly tapped phones of ministers, industrialists, bureaucrats: Report
During 2001 and 2006, the Essar Group has allegedly tapped telephones of several ministers, industrialists like the Ambanis and bureaucrats, says a report from the Outlook magazine. 
 
According to the report, the conversations, recorded by a former Essar employee over an 11-year period from 2000, reveal how rampant illegal phone tapping has become, not even sparing the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO) when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM. 
 
Here is what Outlook says about the taped conversations…
 
  • On tape are said to be Vajpayee’s NSA Brajesh Mishra and his foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya; cabinet colleagues Jaswant Singh, the late Pramod Mahajan and current UP governor Ram Naik, power minister Piyush Goyal, railway minister Suresh Prabhu, Mumbai MP Kirit Somaiya and Mahajan aide Sudhanshu Mittal.
     
  • On the business side, the entire undivided Ambani clan and their A-team: Mukesh Ambani, brother Anil and his wife Tina; RIL directors Hetal Meswani, Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, Manoj Modi, Anand Jain and Satish Seth; and their men Friday, Tony Jesudasan and A Sethuraman.
     
  • On the bureaucratic end, there is former PMO official NK Singh and current home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, then in the dep­artment of corporate affairs. Bringing up the rear are Subrato Roy of Sahara, Amitabh Bachchan, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh.

On 1 June 2016, Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer Suren Uppal, who claims to represent Albasit Khan, an employee of Essar, who allegedly tapped the phones, sent a 29-page complaint to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Here are verbatim excerpts from Uppal’s letter to the PM, as quoted by Outlook…
 
  • “Conversations dated 01.12.2002, between Mukesh Ambani and Satish Seth (an RIL director) wherein they have been heard of managing the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through Pramod Mahajan, with the visit and meeting of Ajay Singh with the CJI of India.”
     
  • “Conversations between Anil Ambani and Satish Seth 29.01.2003, wherein there is a clear disclosure regarding how Reliance was trying to manage the Shivani Bhatnagar Murder case to favour Pramod Mahajan and how the same was diluted as against the minister and the company was able to control the uproar in the Parliament by using Amar Singh.”
     
  • “Conversation between Amar Singh and Kunwar Akhilesh Singh, MP from Samata Party, dated 28 November 2002, whereby it has been revealed that the whole JPC [joint parliamentary committee] was managed by Amar Singh on beh­alf of Reliance so that Company’s inv­olvement in the Ketan Parikh Scam and Global Trust Bank fiasco is managed favourably to protect Reliance Petroleum. It is further categorically mentioned in the conversation that money on behalf of Reliance has been paid to Prakash Mani Tripathi, Chairman of the JPC, whose son was already working for Reliance, along-with others including, S.S. Ahluwalia, Praful Patel, Prem Chand Gupta, Kirit Somaiya to get favourable outcomes in fav­our of Reliance India Limited.”
     
  • “Numerous conversations between N.K. Singh [then OSD in the PMO] and Mukesh Ambani, wherein they discussed the pre-budget policies of the governments and Ambani is heard influencing the making of the annual budget.”
     
  • “Conversations between V.K. Dhall, secretary DCA, Anil Ambani, Satish Seth and Rajeev Maharishi (sic), IAS, wherein the irregularities in 65-odd number of companies has been highlighted specifically from the point of view of the violations committed therein and the undue benefits been conferred on RIL thereby.”

According to the magazine, the tapping was allegedly done through the BPL (now Loop) Mobile and Hutch servers by cell-to-cell interception. Essar’s own network and the group’s conversations were being rec­orded on land and cell lines. The intercepting SIMs were pre-paid cards bearing the numbers and were rec­harged regularly by Shishir Agarwal. 

Uppal told the magazine that the telephonic conversations leave no doubt as to whose voice it is and what is being discussed. “While the conversations, on the cellular and landline network, recorded for over a decade, run into hundreds of hours, 12 CDs containing some crucial conversations were key. These, Uppal says, have been handed over to Modi and some of the dramatis personae concerned. No one from the government has responded so far. 
“I applied abundant caution in getting to the bottom of this scandal and waited for a response from the PM on what they are doing about this. Considering the innumerable violations of the law, I feel this is a fit case for a CBI probe or a court-monitored probe. However, like the corporates, the government too has chosen to be silent,” Uppal told Outlook.
 
Uppal told the magazine that after a few months, Khan went incommunicado. He said, “I feel he was ­being bought over by these corporates. They tried to manage him and he stopped taking my calls and SMSes as well. Subsequently, I have been unable to even connect with him. He could, perhaps, be out of the country by now.”
 
Top Essar officials told Outlook there was no basis for the allegations. “Is there any evidence to suggest that these are even Essar phone taps? These are the latest in the attempts to drag our company down.” 

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NSEL Scam: SEBI appoints auditor panel to inspect books of five brokers
The Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) under the Ministry of Finance says it continues to monitor progress of investigation in the Rs5,600 crore National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) scam through Review Meetings. During the recently concluded meeting, it was informed that the SEBI has appointed empanelled auditors to conduct detailed inspection of books of five brokers of the erstwhile Forward Markets Commission (FMC) whose names figure in the list of offenders received from the EOW. SEBI was asked to get the audit of the books of brokers carried out in a comprehensive manner and expedite necessary action under law. 
 
Several agencies, like Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police, Enforcement Directorate (ED), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND) and Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) are looking in to the criminal offences and default in payments to investors on the platform of NSEL.
 
Maharashtra government has initiated process to auction attached properties in the NSEL scam. During the review meeting, Shaktikanta Das, Secretary for Economic Affairs advised the state government to expedite the auction of attached properties so that the money realised can be returned to the investors at the earliest following the due procedure. 
 
Here are the updates and decisions taken in the review meeting hold on 6 June 2016...
• Government of Maharashtra has issued fifth Gazette notification on 17 March 2016 for attachment of 151 properties worth Rs358.46 crore. Till date, five Gazette notifications have been issued in respect of attachment of assets worth Rs6,115.25 crores approximately.
 
• MCA is working on the merger / amalgamation of NSEL with Financial Technologies (India) Ltd (FTIL). The Bombay High Court had granted extension of time up to 15 February 2016 to MCA for taking final view on the draft order of the amalgamation. The MCA issued the final Order on 12 February 2016 for the merger of NSEL with FTIL. The Bombay HC, however, has restrained the Government from notifying the final Order dated 12 February 2016 in the Gazette. In the review meeting, MCA was requested to take quick action and ensure that the case is handled on priority. Further, it was advised that a senior officer should visit Mumbai to follow up on the Court case.
 
• The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a prosecution complaint before the City Civil Court And Additional Sessions Judge, Greater Bombay on 30 March 2015 against NSEL and 67 other accused persons under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). The prosecution complaint details money trail amounting to Rs3,721.22 crore. The next date of hearing is on 7 July 2016. It was pointed out to the Directorate that the violation of PMLA is a serious offence and therefore, the Directorate should be more proactive and take effective action quickly.
 
• FIU-IND passed an Order on 4 November 2015 under section 13 of the PMLA imposing a penalty of Rs1.66 crores on the NSEL for non-compliance of the Act. NSEL has gone in appeal in the PMLA Tribunal against the Order passed by Director, FIU-IND. Besides this, Show Cause Notices have been issued to officials / Directors concerned of NSEL. FIU-IND was advised that all out efforts may be made to ensure realisation of the penalty at the earliest.
 
• As decided in the previous review meeting, Government of Maharashtra is working on proposals for providing additional manpower for EOW of Mumbai Police, which is investigating the NSEL case on an urgent basis; augmenting the number of Designated Courts under the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (In Financial Establishments) Act, 1999; and deployment of full time competent authorities for dealing exclusively with NSEL related work.  

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Nifty, Sensex is trendless – Weekly closing report
We had mentioned in last week’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex might struggle to go up. The major indices were trading flat on a weekly basis with minor gains/ losses on account of a wait and watch attitude on the part of investors. The markets were waiting for clarity on interest rates from the Federal Reserve and global cues. The weekly trends of the major indices are given in the table below:
 
 
Bearish global cues, along with disappointing domestic macro-economic data and a weak rupee, dragged the key Indian equity markets lower on Monday. Consequently, the key indices traded in the red during the mid-afternoon session, as heavy selling pressure was witnessed in banking, automobile and capital goods stocks. Initially, on Monday, the key indices opened on a weak note, in sync with their Asian peers and a lower close of the US stock on last Friday. Asian stocks receded as investors were cautious ahead of the US FOMC's (Federal Open Market Committee) rate setting meeting which is slated to start on Tuesday. Further, lower crude oil prices and a weak rupee dented key indices. Besides, the upcoming domestic macro-economic inflation data -- Consumer Price Index (CPI) -- stroked volatility. A rise in CPI inflation may further reduce chances of a future rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). In addition, poor data on industrial production which was released after market hours on Friday last week weighed heavy on sentiments.
 
With international oil prices climbing back to over $50 levels, driving around on cheap fuel seems to be a thing of the past though there is no danger of "hard times" as yet, Assocham said on Sunday. "While the crude oil prices have shot up by about 20% in the last few months, the auto fuel prices at the filling stations have increased between 12%-18% in different cities, depending on the state levies," said the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India. "A sharp increase in the retail prices of automobile fuel, particularly diesel, will have a cascading impact on the prices of a large number of consumer items, building the inflationary pressure and making the task of the Reserve Bank of India difficult in moderating the interest rates," it added.
 
Disappointing inflation data, along with negative global cues, depressed the Indian equity markets on Tuesday. Consequently, the key indices of the Indian equity markets traded in the red during the mid-afternoon session, as selling pressure was witnessed in information technology (IT), oil and gas, and automobile stocks. Investors were disappointed as Consumer Price Index (CPI) which was released after market hours on Monday showed an upward trajectory. Even the other major domestic macro-economic inflation data -- Wholesale Price Index (WPI) -- stroked volatility, as it showed a second month of rise. 
 
Further, investors were seen cautious ahead of the US FOMC's (Federal Open Market Committee) rate setting meet. A hike in the US interest rate is expected to lead FPIs (Foreign Portfolio Investors) away from emerging markets such as India. Besides the US FOMC, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) and the Bank of England are slated to conduct their monetary policy meets this week. Lower crude oil prices and a weak rupee also dented key indices.
 
Value buying, key economic decisions and a strong rupee lifted the Indian equity markets on Wednesday as healthy buying was witnessed in capital goods, banking, and automobile stocks. In contrast, the BSE market breadth was skewed in favour of the bears -- with 1,546 declines and 952 advances. Value buying, after five consecutive days of falling share prices, triggered short covering which supported prices, point out market analysts.
 
Consumer electrical and electronics appliances maker V-Guard Industries Ltd is expanding its kitchen product range by launching gas stoves while its new voltage stabiliser factory at Sikkim will go on stream soon, said a senior company official. "We will soon launch gas stoves there by expanding our kitchen product range. Further, our new voltage stabiliser factory at Sikkim will go on stream soon. The expansion of our wire capacity at Coimbatore facility will also be completed soon," V Ramachandran, director and chief operating officer, told IANS on Wednesday. He was here to launch the Rs1,862-crore revenue company's new intelligent water heater branded Verano, that can be operated from anywhere in the world with a smart phone. Currently, the company sells kitchen items like induction cooktops and mixers. The company’s shares closed at Rs1,317.95, up 0.81% on the BSE.
 
Some policy decisions and a strong rupee lifted the Indian equity markets on Wednesday as healthy buying was witnessed in capital goods, banking, and automobile stocks. In contrast, the BSE market breadth was skewed in favour of the bears -- with 1,546 declines and 952 advances. Value buying, after five consecutive days of falling share prices, triggered short covering which supported prices, point out market analysts.
 
Negative global cues spooked key Indian equity markets on Thursday. Heavy selling pressure was witnessed in banking, automobile and capital goods stocks. The cautiousness showed by the Fed chairperson on keeping the key interest rates unchanged have depressed the global markets, pointed out market analysts. The BSE market breadth was skewed in favour of the bears -- with 1,633 declines and 965 advances.
 
On Friday, positive global cues, along with value buying and a strong rupee, buoyed the Indian equity markets. Consequently, the key indices closed in the green before which they had slipped into the negative territory due to selling pressure. Nonetheless, a relief rally in Europe, coupled with domestic short covering helped the benchmark indices to pare their losses in the last half an hour of the day's trade. Even healthy macro-economic data on current account deficit (CAD) lent support to the equity markets' upward movement. The CAD narrowed sharply to $0.3 billion or 0.1% of the GDP in the fourth quarter of 2015-16. Besides, higher global crude oil prices, value buying and short covering supported prices. 

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