Economy
Panel to study options for new financial year
New Delhi: The Union government on Wednesday set up a four-member committee to examine the desirability and feasibility of having a new financial or fiscal year, an official statement said.
 
"The committee, headed by former Chief Economic Adviser Shankar Acharya, will examine the merits and demerits of various dates for commencing the financial year, including the existing April 1 to March 31," the statement said.
 
The other three members of the committee are former Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, former Tamil Nadu Finance Secretary P.V. Rajaraman and Centre for Policy Research senior fellow Rajiv Kumar.
 
The committee has been asked to submit its report by December 31.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Class action to freeze Pearl Group assets in Australia
Lawyers here are all set to lodge a class action in the Australian Federal Court (AFC) on Thursday to demand freezing of the Chandigarh-based Pearl Group's real estate assets in Australia.
 
It has been alleged that Pearl Group was running a ponzi scheme which had swelled to over Rs 45,000 crore. 
 
India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is in the process of identifying various assets owned by the directors of the Pearl Group. The assets include prime real estate in Australia's tourist hub in the northern state Queensland.
 
Australian lawyers are now lodging the class action in the federal court on behalf of tens of thousands of defrauded Indian investors. They are trying to get court orders to freeze $100 million worth of ­­­prime Gold Coast real estate, which includes a five-star hotel. 
 
"They're trophy properties that were bought by the operators of the scheme in India -- the Sheraton Mirage Gold Coast and a $5 million luxury Gold Coast mansion at Sanctuary Cove," Alex Moriarty from Shine Lawyers told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Television's 7.30 Current Affairs programme on Wednesday evening. 
 
Alex Moriarty is one of the lawyers who represents the defrauded Indian investors in their attempt to retrieve some of their hard-earned money from Australia. 
 
The class action has been brought by a former Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) investigator Niall Coburn. He has travelled to India a few times to speak to the victims of what has come to be known as the Pearl Scam. It has been reported that tens of thousands of Pearl investors have joined the class action led by the Australian lawyer. 
 
"It was clear to me that no one was going to do anything in this kind of investigation -- it was all too hard," Coburn said on Wednesday.
 
"At the moment, we're representing more than 45,000 Indian investors who collectively invested over $10 million," Moriarty said.
 
"But a class action can grow as more people join it," the Australian lawyer added. 
 
While Australian media and legal community have been surprised by the sheer size of the allegedly duped customers, they have also been criticising an Australian government body Austrade for introducing the tainted Indian company to the businesses here as an approved investor seven years back. 
 
It has been reported that a Pearls Group company, Pearls Infrastructure, invested $100 million into an Australian company that acquired the Sheraton Mirage for $62 million in 2010.
 
"We are really confident that the committee is fully seized on the matter," ABC's 7.30 Current Affairs programme has quoted Kochi-based advocate C.P. Chandrasekharan as saying. 
 
Besides investments in Queensland, Pearls Group's Australia-based company Pearls Australasia has also been pumping money in other projects Down Under. It has been reported that Pearls Australasia has plans to build the $75 million Edgewater residences and apartments on Lake Orr at Delfin Lend Lease's Varsity Lakes.
 
Investments have also been made in residential towers in Brisbane and property development projects in Melbourne.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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US Senate Bill Would Force Red Cross to Open Books to Outside Oversight

Legislation introduced in the Senate today would open the American Red Cross to outside oversight that it has long resisted.

 

The bill was introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, following a lengthy investigation by his staff that raised questions about the charity's spending after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and documented how Red Cross leaders resisted an earlier congressional inquiry. Grassley launched his probe in response to reporting by ProPublica and NPR.

 

Grassley's American Red Cross Transparency Act, would amend the group's congressional charter to allow unfettered access to its records and personnel by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The Red Cross operates as a private nonprofit but was created by Congress over 100 years ago and has a mandated role to work alongside the federal government after disasters.

 

As we've documented, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern tried unsuccessfully to kill a GAO investigation into the group's disaster response efforts. The charity's pushback, which included questioning the GAO's authority, helped to curtail the scope of the investigation.

 

McGovern later told Grassley's investigators that the Red Cross "gave [the GAO] everything that they asked for" 2013 a statement the investigators later concluded was not true.

 

If Grassley's bill becomes law, the GAO would have the power to obtain documents from the Red Cross related to its internal governance and disaster response programs. If the Red Cross were to resist such a request, the GAO would have the power to subpoena the charity and take it to court, if necessary.

 

The bill would also take steps to empower the Red Cross' internal investigative unit, which Grassley's staff found to be severely undermanned and underused. The unit has just three staffers and requests for more have gone unfulfilled.

 

The bill would remove the unit from under the authority of the general counsel and put it under the control of the charity's board of governors.

 

A Red Cross spokesperson said in a statement the charity "will review the proposed legislation and make our views known to Congress at the appropriate time."

 

A similar bill was introduced last year in the House by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. That bill also would expand GAO's access to the Red Cross and also would require a series of audits of the charity's finances and disaster response work. At the time, the Red Cross released a statement saying that there were already "existing mechanisms in place to evaluate our disaster response."

 

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