Indian authorities, probing the Rs55,000 crore PACL scam, are likely to request Australian authorities to freeze assets bought by the company there, by funnelling investors' money
Indian authorities are likely to meet Australian Federal Police over next the few days and request them to freeze assets in that country related with PACL Ltd, formerly known as Pearl Agrotech that were bought with more than $130 million funnelled by the company and its founder Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, reveals a report from The Australian.
The report says, "The source at India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said the agency had not yet contacted its counterparts in Australia to have Pearls assets in Australia frozen. However, the meeting scheduled for next week, a committee headed by the former chief justice of India, RM Lodha, will meet to discuss what to do next. It will decide what directions are given to the CBI and to the corporate regulator, the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI)."
Separately, SEBI said it has constituted a three-member Committee as per the directions from the Supreme Court. The Committee would be headed by Justice RM Lodha, and will have S Raman, Whole Time Member of SEBI and Amit Pradhan, Chief General Manager and Regional Director for North at SEBI, as members. The Committee would dispose land purchased by PACL so that the sale proceeds can be paid to the investors, who have invested their funds in the Company for purchase of the land, SEBI said in a release.
The market regulator has also appointed Rakesh Kumar Singh, Deputy General Manager, as Nodal Officer-cum-Secretary of the Committee.
The assets, which are likely to be frozen, include the Gold Coast Sheraton Mirage Resort, which Pearls Australasia bought for $62 million in 2009 and spent about $20 million renovating. PACL which has been asked to repay about Rs55,000 crore by the Indian regulators, also paid almost $300,000 to cricketer Brett Lee to promote its Ponzi scheme, the report says.
A police source from the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation told The Australian yesterday that "Rs1.4 crores" was sent by Pearls to a company called Insite Organisation in Sydney in 2011.
A source at SEBI told the newspaper that the Lodha committee could direct authorities to instigate a freeze of Pearls' assets in Australia at this meeting and at present, the investigations are focused in and around India.
Police have also discovered more than 66 office buildings in Delhi's prestigious Connaught Place and hundreds of hectares of land held under shell companies.
Neil Maxwell, who was until recently Lee's manager, is a founding director of Insite (now called Hoatson Maxwell) and Lee's brother, Shane, is a former company director. Maxwell confirmed the $300,000 payment yesterday, saying that he and Lee had been introduced to Pearls Group in India by Austrade, the report says.
Maxwell was quoted by the newspaper as saying, "It was a referral from an Australian government body and if police want to discuss it, I will talk with them."
Maxwell told The Australian that he was no longer able to speak on behalf of Lee and the cricketer's new-manager, Jake Elder, told the newspaper that the cricketer had no comment to make regarding the Pearls’ matter.
In 2010, PACL roped in Australian speedster Brett Lee as its brand ambassador. During a press conference announcing his appointment, Lee had reportedly said, "It's not about only being a brand ambassador, but I am proud to be a family member of Pearls Group. I feel every person is being touched by Pearls around the world. I certainly believe that Pearls is the best."
In the advertising campaign, Lee was filmed building sandcastles with kids and jogging on a beach in Goa. "He stood in front of a camera dressed in a white sports coat and recited the firm's mantra: 'Touching hearts, building confidence. Pearls Infrastructure', the news report says.
The Australian had reported that on the website Brett-Lee.net Pearls was listed as one of the companies Lee was endorsing. However, it appears that brettlee.com.au is his official website and Pearls is no longer endorsed on this site, the report says.