The Court in Mumbai asked former world Billiards champion Michael Ferreira to return to India, surrender his passport and appear before the EOW, which is probing the Rs425 crore QNet scam
A Session Court in Mumbai on Wednesday has directed former world Billiards champion Michael Ferreira to return to the city and surrender his passport and not to leave the country without the Court's permission. While granting interim relief to Ferreira till 31st January, the Court asked him to appear before the economic offences wing (EOW), which is probing the Rs425 crore QNet scam. Ferreira is one of the main accused in the multi-level marketing (MLM) scam.
Earlier this month, The economic offences wing (EOW) of Mumbai police has issued lookout notices against 10 people including Michael Ferreira, former World Billiards Champion and Padma Bhushan awardee, after he failed to turn up for questioning in the QNet scam case.
Ferreira was summoned by the EOW in connection with the Rs425-crore scam allegedly committed by multi-level marketing (MLM) operator QNet. The former world champion is founder of Faith, which was started as a distributor network under the QI brand.
Last month, while speaking with news channels, Ferreira, who has gone abroad some time back, had said he would appear before the investigators as soon as he returns to India. He even defended the controversial company. However, the former World Billiards Champion did not turn up before the EOW, which resulted in police issuing a look out notice against him.
QNet operates in India through its official franchisee Vihaan Direct Selling Pvt Ltd, which carries the company's brand name in the country. Ferreira owns 80% stake in Vihaan Direct Selling with Malcolm N Desai holding the rest. Desai had already approached the Sessions Court in Mumbai for an anticipatory bail fearing that the EOW may arrest him soon.
According to Faith Egypt, Michael Ferreira is the founder of 'Team Faith' that is involved in hard-selling QNet scheme. Talking about Ferreira, it says, "As an individual, in a very short space of time he (Ferreira) was in the list of the top 30 earners and under his astute stewardship he provided the platform, environment, guidance, training and inspiration to his flock, many of whom are earning incomes beyond their wildest dreams."
Showing a clear link between, Ferreira, QNet and its founder Vijay Eswaran (one of the accused in the cases against the MLM operator), the portal says, "The core leadership of Faith is today in a position to concentrate more sharply on those who still remain vulnerable to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” so that each one of them develops into lead birds of their own teams, all fiercely loyal to Faith, its philosophy and its ideals and to the values espoused by its visionary and mentor Dato Vijay Eswaran."
The EOW has also received a complaint against Bollywood actor Boman Irani and his son Danesh in the QNet scam. The police are probing transactions worth Rs18 crore in Danesh's bank accounts.
The EOW has already registered a case against directors and officers of Vihaan Direct Selling (India) Pvt Ltd, QNet, Transview Enterprises Pvt Ltd and Vanmala Hotels & Tourism Services.
An all-women’s branch has been launched in Pune. Will this be of much use?
What has changed during past 12 months that required urgent intervention from the ‘pseudo supreme’ authority of Congress to lobby for increasing the subsidised LPG cylinders to 12? Will it stop the suffering of citizens who are harassed under the pretext of Aadhaar and subsidised cylinders? Here is what you can do in the meanwhile
As mentioned in the first part, the Aadhaar, LPG refill subsidy and direct benefit transfer (DBTL) scheme is in to complete mess. The ‘larger than life’ claims made by the proponents of Aadhaar, especially IT Czar Nandan Nilekani, are falling flat in practice. Can the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) explain why people are not receiving LPG refill subsidy on time and into their own lined bank account while people not related with these are receiving SMS about LPG subsidy? The mess is created under the pretext of unique identification (UID), which was then penetrated into the LPG subsidy through banking system. All this was done without taking into consideration the issue and problems of LPG refill distribution and banking system. This has resulted in citizens suffering at the hands of LPG distributors under the pretext of Aadhaar, which is meant for residents.
Following the interim order issued by the Supreme Court, all three oil marketing companies (OMCs), as well as union government and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoP&NG) had sought modification of the apex court’s order of 23 September 2013. The order unequivocally directed, “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.”
According to Justice KS Puttaswamy, the retired judge from Karnataka High Court, who had filed the public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, government schemes (of making Aadhaar mandatory) cannot be imposed upon people. Speaking with Citizen Matters, Bangalore, Justice Puttaswamy had said, "An interim order is as much as a final order. So presently all these government schemes cannot be imposed upon people. And if it is done, it is contempt of court. The interim order does not mention any names of schemes. But under this, no one can insist of Aadhaar for any government schemes like ration card, bank account, cash transfer, issue of LPG subsidies and so on."
Another interesting aspect of the whole Aadhaar drama is Congress and most political parties are avoiding taking a clear political position demanding scrapping of the biometric identification exercise and are speaking with forked tongue. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s speech last week is nothing but another example of bluffing. When finance minister P Chidambaram said there is a need to increase the quota for subsidised LPG refill to 12 from nine, both oil minister Veerappa Moily and oil secretary Vivek Rae were quick to rule out the hike. However, as soon as Rahul Gandhi expressed the need to increase the quota, the same Moily was quick to say that his ministry would put forward such proposal before the upcoming cabinet meeting. This shows the politicisation of LPG subsidy, especially looking at the general elections in next few months.
It must be noted, it was the same Manmohan Singh-led government, which capped the subsidised LPG refill quota to six cylinders per year in September 2012. Following outcry from several quarters, in January 2013, it was increased to nine cylinders. The original idea behind the cap in LPG refill cylinders was to reduce the subsidy bill of the government. If the UPA government is interested in reducing subsidy bill, then why not scrap it in one stroke, instead of playing hide and seek games with common citizens?
Interestingly question though, what has changed between January 2013 and January 2014 that required intervention from the ‘pseudo supreme’ authority of Congress to lobby for increasing the LPG refill per year to 12? It is nothing but vote bank politics to appease voters before the general elections.
Hope the same thinking would be applied in scrapping the UID/Aadhaar project as well from the Congress high command, which still reportedly has not enrolled for the scheme.
In a country like ours where illiteracy is rampant and the average citizen is already burdened with different cards for different purposes- voter ID card, PAN card, BPL card, the forceful linking of Aadhaar with LPG refill subsidy is only burdening the common citizen. Hope the Supreme Court takes the OMCs, Oil Ministry and the UPA government to task and put the illegal ‘Aadhaar business’ to an end.
Most importantly, as Moneylife has been writing, the basic issue in India and its over billion citizens are not about subsidy, but it is about demand and supply gap. Citizens are being deprives their rightful benefits because the middleman-politicians-babu nexus is siphoning off the benefits before it reaches the end user. For example, citizens from a far away village are not receiving foodgrains because of the nexus. And directly transferring subsidy money in to these people’s bank account (if they have one) is not going to ensure that the foodgrains reach the village. This is because if the foodgrains are siphoned off before reaching the village and public distribution (PDS) shop, then how and from where these poor people are going to buy it? Anyway, that is subject for another article. Here we will discuss about the LPG refill subsidy only.
There are basically two types of LPG customers, one who has linked their Aadhaar and bank account and two, those who have not done so.
Those who do not have Aadhaar:
Such customers are being flooded with SMS to enrol for Aadhaar and link it to their bank account and subsequently provide the details to their LPG distributor. However, with the interim order of the Supreme Court being in force, the LPG distributor and OMC cannot deny the rightful subsidy to the rightful customers. This means, any LPG customer, who may or may not have submitted the Aadhaar is liable to get the nine subsidised LPG refills for FY2014 (unless the OMCs increase it to 12 refills per year following the diktat from Rahul Gandhi).
As Moneylife wrote, in one glaring example of misuse of powers, one distributor from Hyderabad not only denied a LPG refill to a customer despite showing willingness to buy it at market rate. Going one step ahead, the distributor even blocked the connection of the customer for not providing Aadhaar.
Those who have submitted Aadhaar are also facing problems:
Major issue these customers are facing is about receiving LPG refill subsidy on time and the communication. Several customers are still waiting for their subsidy to be deposited in their bank accounts. In the meanwhile, many had to buy the LPG refill at market rate that is without the subsidy. At present, the open market rate of a domestic (home use) LPG refill costs Rs1,275.5 while the subsidised refill costs Rs455. The subsidy amount in this case works out to be Rs820.5, however, the customer is getting only Rs794.84. This means he will have to pay the differential amount from his own pocket.
In addition, there is value added tax (VAT) and income tax that the customer will have to pay. The subsidised cost of LPG refill included all taxes, but for non-subsidised LPG cylinder the customers will have to borne the cost. In addition, since the money would be deposited in the bank account, it would be considered as ‘income from other sources’ and the customer would have to pay income tax, as per his/her obligations under appropriate slab.
What you can do?
Mathew Thomas, a former defence services officer and missile scientist turned civic activist, who is campaigning against state database control of the people, has already sent notices to the UIDAI, MOP&NG and all three OMCs for the contempt of Supreme Court order.
KP Janardan, one of the readers of Moneylife, had also sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India requesting to take suo moto action against the Oil Ministry. Pointing out toward an ad published by MoP&NG, he said, “It is worth noting that the Ministry has gone ahead and issued the said ad with impunity even after the Supreme Court had rejected a subsequent plea for a modification of Order dated 26/11/13. I would therefore request that the Supreme Court take suo moto notice of this wilful defiance of its Orders by the Union Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas and initiate contempt proceedings against it.”
Similarly, if you are being deprived of your rightful subsidy for LPG refill (nine cylinders at present), you can do several things. But you need to act fast, on your own.
1. Write a letter (email) to your LPG distributor giving reference of the Supreme Court order and ask why you have been denied subsidy for your rightful nine refills.
2. Send a copy of your letter (email) to the oil marketing company like HPCL, BPCL or IOC.
3. Make full use of the online portals of all OMC that shows the record of your LPG booking, delivery and subsidy.
4. Mention in your letter that as per the Essential Commodities Act, the OMC and distributor is mandated to deliver the LPG cylinder at your home within 48 hours of booking. As most of the distributors don’t follow this, you can tell your distributor that you would file a complaint before the Consumer Forum.
Here are rights of consumers under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 and the corresponding LPG (Regular Supply & Distribution) Order 2000...
-Bookings for the gas cylinder must be accepted over the phone.
-100% home delivery.
-The gas cylinder should to be delivered within 48 hours of booking.
-The customer has the right to weigh the cylinder on taking delivery.
-Gas agencies must be open for business between 10am and 6pm, except on public holidays and Sundays.
5. Also inform the LPG distributor that his/her act is contempt of Supreme Court order and you would be compelled to write to the Chief Justice of India for it.
6. If the LPG distributor/OMC continues to act high-handedly, then write to the Chief Justice of India (with supported documents), requesting the Court to take suo moto action for contempt of court order against your LPG distributor, the OMC, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the minister of MoP&NG and last but not least, the Prime Minister. You can also include Nandan Nilekani, the chairperson o UIDAI, the UIDAI and Planning Commission (as UIDAI works under it).
7. Use the Right to Information (RTI) Act while perusing the matter with all the concerned as they all fall under the category of 'Public Authority' as defined under the Act. Your LPG distributor is not a public authority, but you can file RTI asking the OMC for details about the distributor. (Read: Hassled over the delay in the delivery of your gas cylinder? Try the RTI route)
Here is a sample/template for sending a letter to your LPG distributor prepared by Dr Anupam Saraph…
Your Gas Agency Name
Your Gas Agency Address
I am enclosing a copy of the Supreme Court Order dated 23 September 2013 indicating that no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.
Your persistent demand for Aadhaar for me to claim the subsidized LPG refill cylinder entitled by me continues to cause my family suffering as I do not have an Aadhaar, do not wish to obtain one, and certainly do not want to link it with any bank account.
According to the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M Veerappa Moily, 'Over 14 crore people in the country have LPG connections. However, three crore among them have got connections by producing fake documents’. Clearly the 11 crore honest and law-abiding citizens do not need to be made to suffer Aadhaar numbers or bank accounts?
Surely you cannot be placing blind faith on using a random number assigned by the UIDAI to a set of unverified and unaudited demographic and biometric data submitted and maintained/ operated by private parties who are paid for every record they submit in preference to your own records that you seem to have audited and have used all along? What purpose does this suffering serve?
Surely you know that through its notification of 28 September 2011 the Reserve Bank of India suspended the “Anti-Money Laundering” Rules for bank accounts opened with Aadhaar as the sole KYC? Surely you know this makes it possible to transfer subsidy to unverified accounts operated by anyone who has hold of the Aadhaar-linked bank account? Surely you cannot want to cause people to suffer the embezzlement of their subsidy?
I urge you to immediately discard any linkage or use of Aadhaar with your databases and revert to the time tested practices of issuing subsidized cylinders.
Your Consumer Number
Here are the addresses…
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