MRPL last week deposited an equivalent of $100 million in a rupee account in the New Delhi branch of Union Bank of India which then routed euros equivalent to state-owned Turkiye Halk Bankasi (Halkbank) in Istanbul. Other refiners that import oil from Iran are expected to use the new payment route
New Delhi: India has made its first payment in more than five months for crude oil its buys from Iran when a $100 million wire-transfer by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals (MRPL) was received by Tehran via Turkey, reports PTI.
MRPL last week deposited an equivalent of $100 million in a rupee account in the New Delhi branch of Union Bank of India which then routed euros equivalent to state-owned Turkiye Halk Bankasi (Halkbank) in Istanbul.
Halkbank has since transferred the money to the account of the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC), sources said.
"The pipeline (for payments) has been opened... we have confirmation that money transferred has reached the intended beneficiary," a source said.
MRPL's was a test payment and now more refiners will use the same route to pay Iran. Essar Oil, the nation's second biggest importer of Iranian oil after MRPL, is to transfer money today and will be followed by state-owned Indian Oil Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, each sending $50 million.
This is the first payment Indian refiners have made to Iran since February when it had paid 1.5 billion euros through German-based Iranian bank Europisch-Iranische Handelsbank AG (EIH Bank). But soon after that payment, US convinced Germany to block that conduit.
India owes more than $7 billion to its second biggest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia.
Iran had yesterday stated that the payment problem, which arose when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in December last year unilaterally scrapped a long-standing mechanism of trade through region's central bank, with India has been resolved.
The Iranian oil ministry's website SHANA yesterday quoted NIOC managing director Ahmad Qalebani to say that "the problem of Indian payments for imported oil from Iran has been solved".
It quoted NIOC's director for international affairs Mohsen Qamsari as saying that "the two sides had reached an agreement on the arrear payments... related bank accounts have been announced to Indian side and the amount deposited into our accounts would be revealed by reopening of the international banks on Monday".
Iran's 4 lakh barrels per day of oil exports, which is 12% of India's needs, were "going on as usual", he said.
The RBI had on 23rd December last year scrapped the Asian Clearing Union (ACU), winning appreciation from the US, which is using sanctions to force Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.
Sources said Iran, which has been supplying some 400,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) on credit since the RBI move, had previously provided no plans for shipping oil in August but refiners can expect crude as usual.
Iran had on 27th June written about stopping supplies from August if the dues are not paid.
Mr Qamsari said, "A notice had been sent to Indian indebted oil refineries, but this did not mean stoppage of oil exports to the country."
"NIOC has no plan to suspend oil exports to India," he said, pointing to good relations with India.
Indian refiners had tapped Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq to cover for any supply disruption from Iran.
MRPL is the largest buyer of Iranian crude, at 1,42,000 bpd, while Essar buys 1,10,000 bpd of oil from Tehran.
Majeed Memon, appearing for Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa asserted that the CBI's case is based upon the loss to the state exchequer but the government had stated in Parliament that no loss was suffered and instead the tele-density in the country had increased in 2010 from what it was in 2004
New Delhi: Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa Monday demanded in a Delhi court that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) 'must answer' as to what is the actual loss suffered by the state exchequer due to the second generation (2G) spectrum scam, reports PTI.
Opposing framing of corruption and other penal charges against him, Mr Balwa told special CBI judge OP Saini that the agency should have written a letter to the Indian prime minister or the finance minister to know the actual loss to the exchequer due to the scam.
"The CBI must answer as to what is the actual loss to the state exchequer. It (loss) is the basis of the prosecution and it has to be supported with documentation," advocate Majeed Memon, appearing for Mr Balwa, said.
Mr Memon asserted that the CBI's case is based upon the loss to the state exchequer but the government had stated in Parliament that no loss was suffered and instead the tele-density in the country had increased in 2010 from what it was in 2004.
Mr Memon also asked the CBI if any loss has been suffered by the state exchequer, who exactly was responsible for it and up to what extent.
He also said the probe agency must answer whether Swan Telecom was ineligible to get Unified Access Services (UAS) licence in January 2008.
Balwa's counsel also accused the CBI of adopting selective approach in arresting people in the case.
"It is surprising how out of various companies (which got licences for 22 circles) and persons, the CBI picked up A and B and left others. Why are they adopting the selective approach?" Mr Memon asked, accusing CBI of conducting "a biased, selective and discriminatory approach" in the investigation.
"You (CBI) have just picked up one man of your choice from one point and the other from another point. CBI is blowing up the case so that the court would be hesitant to consider liberty of a person even after months. It is guilty of misleading the court," Mr Balwa's counsel told the court.
Mr Memon also asked the CBI to explain as to why former telecom minister A Raja is in jail if ministers belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government are not in jail despite evolving and following the same policy that Mr Raja had pursued.
Without naming anyone, Mr Memon submitted that MR Balwa is paying the price because of business rivalry.
"I (Mr Balwa) am a successful businessman and thus I am paying the price because of my business rivals. There is a feeling of vengeance (in my business rivals) as I am a threat to my competitors," he said.
Mr Balwa, arrested on 8th February, is presently lodged in Tihar Jail along with other 13 accused including Mr Raja and Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi.
Charges of cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and corruption have been levelled against Mr Balwa.
The CBI charge-sheet has alleged that bribe money of Rs200 crore had been channelized from Balwa's DB Realty to DMK-run Kalaignar TV through a 'circuitous route' via Cineyug Films and Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd for grant of licence to Mr Balwa's Swan Telecom promoter.
The agency, in its first charge-sheet, has alleged that Balwa along with other co-accused in the case entered into a conspiracy for manipulating the procedure for allocation of spectrum with the aim of favouring companies like Swan Telecom and Unitech Group.
Mr Balwa asked as to why no one ever objected to telecom majors like Airtel, Tata and Vodafone securing licences between 2004 and 2007 at 2001 rates, while grant of 2G licence to him at 2001 prices merely a few months later in 2008 is being questioned.
MR Balwa's counsel pointed out to the special CBI judge that the prices were fixed in 2001 and were followed till 2008.
"May I ask if after 2004, no one talks of giving licences to Tata, Airtel and Vodafone on the same price as fixed in 2001," he said, pointing out that Vodafone was awarded licences to operate in Madhya Pradesh Telecom circle on 2001 rates in March 2007.
"In March 2007, Vodafone was given licence at the price fixed in 2001 and 10 months later (in January 2008) eyebrows are being raised that I got licences at the price of 2001," Mr Memon said.
He will continue arguments opposing framing of corruption and other penal charges against Mr Balwa in the post lunch session.
Till now, the court has heard arguments on behalf of former telecom minister A Raja, his personal secretary RK Chandolia and former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura opposing framing of charges against them in the 2G spectrum scam.
The MLM company, whose COO is in police custody for alleged money swindling, is desperately trying to allay the fears of its panellists by offering unnamed, unbranded products instead of money, to keep them from filing complaints
Speak Asia, the multi-level marketing (MLM) company which is desperate to keep its flock intact, continues to release half page ads in mainstream dailies. Through these ads the company is requesting its panellists to use the reward points that they have collected to buy certain unbranded or unnamed products, like LCD television sets in lieu of money. But many do not seem to be interested in these products and they are demanding their money back immediately.
Following the arrest of Taral Bajpai, the chief operating officer (COO), and some others by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police, "proud to be Speak Asians" have been demoralised. Some of them who are desperate for the money could file complaints against the company for duping them. In order to allay fears of its panellists and to try to stop them from filing complaints against it, Speak Asia is offering products that have also been advertised on its website.
Interestingly, following the arrests, Speak Asia's newly-hired chief executive Manoj Kumar Sharma is still untraceable. However, the company's website has released a video of Mr Sharma, shot at an undisclosed location. In the video, Mr Sharma assures the company's agents about opening an office in India very soon. This is nothing new, as various officials have been repeating this since it started its activities in India a year ago. Speak Asia's global CEO and founder Haren Kaur has not been reachable.
(A couple of lines posted on Twitter about this video read: "Meanwhile Speak Asia CEO Manoj Kumar has released a video from an undisclosed location. Seems to be truly inspired by Osama.")
Mr Sharma also says in the video that he has been travelling on business tours over the past ten days and that he would be back in India soon. Criticising the media for deliberately spreading false rumours about the company, he said Speak Asia has been victimised through a "malicious and unsubstantiated" campaign by news channels and other vested interests. He said that the company is formalising its operations in India to open offices that will help to grow the business.
According to a media report, Dilip Cherian, the owner of public relations firm Perfect Relations, which claimed to handle Speak Asia's public relations and media image management, has also been questioned by the authorities in Delhi after the sudden disappearance of Mr Sharma. It seems that when the persons arrested were being brought to Mumbai last week, some investors protested at the Mumbai airport on their arrival, and this information was released to the media by the PR agency.
Moneylife was the first to write about the dubious claims made by Speak Asia and almost every article attracted numerous comments, many of them abusive and derogatory. However, there hasn't been a single such abusive comment since the arrests.
As Moneylife has already reported, Speak Asia now owes around Rs2,280 crore by way of payments to about 19 lakh panellists it has enrolled as of 31th July and there could be other older dues piled up (like payments to newspapers for publishing the company's advertisements).
Some panellists explained that the company was offering products in lieu of reward points (1 reward point=Rs50). But since Speak Asia had very few products, many have not been happy about buying what is available and they have also been voicing their discontent on the internet.
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