RBI allows Iranian central bank to open rupee accounts

The Iranian central bank would park funds in the two Indian banks to enable payments for oil imports by India as well as non-oil exports to Iran, a top official of UCO Bank said

Kolkata: In an effort to resolve a long-standing payment crisis, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given permission to the Central Bank of Iran to open rupee accounts with two Indian banks, namely UCO and IDBI, reports PTI.

“Permission from the RBI has very recently come to open rupee accounts with two Indian banks, one of which is UCO,” a top official of city-based UCO Bank told PTI.

The other bank is IDBI Bank.

Both the accounts were opened in the respective banks’ Mumbai branches.

The official said since the closure of the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) in December, payments for oil imports from Iran and non-oil exports to that country have been severely affected.

The UCO official said there was some understanding between the RBI and the Iranian central bank about the mechanism of making payments.

He said that the Iranian central bank would park funds in the two Indian banks to enable payments for oil imports by India as well as non-oil exports to Iran.

To a query, he said it was not yet known whether the Iranian central bank had already parked funds in the two accounts.

The official said while payments for oil imports would initially be in rupees, it would be then converted into a separate currency, which was yet to be decided by the RBI.

Meanwhile, the tea industry is deeply worried about non-payment for shipments made to Iran since December last year.

Secretary of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), M Dasgupta, said since payment through the ACU ceased, no letters of credit could be opened by Iranian importers with any Indian commercial bank due to US sanctions.

He said unless the problem was resolved, orthodox tea producers would be hard-pressed, as they would have to hold on to their stocks.

The ITA official said Iran was an importer of high-value orthodox tea, which fetches an average price of Rs190 per kilogram, as compared to Rs145 per kilogram for other varieties of tea.

The other fear was that producers might lower production of orthodox tea to shift to other varieties like CTC.

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Cabinet clears Companies Bill; to be taken up in Winter Session

Besides strengthening the provisions to check fraud, the Bill has introduced ideas like mandatory CSR, class action suits and a fixed term for independent directors. The Bill also seeks to prohibit any insider trading by company directors or key managerial personnel by treating such activities as a criminal offence

New Delhi: The Cabinet on Thursday approved the Companies Bill, 2011, which aims to update corporate laws in the country and introduce modern concepts like mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) and class action suits, reports PTI.

Intended to replace the existing half-a-century-old Companies Act, the Bill has undergone several modifications in view of the Rs14,000 crore Satyam accounting fraud.

Following Cabinet clearance, it is now likely to be taken up for consideration and passage in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.

“Cabinet has cleared the Companies Bill, 2011. It is likely to be tabled (for consideration and passage) in the ongoing Winter Session,” a corporate affairs ministry official said.

Besides strengthening the provisions to check fraud, the Bill has introduced ideas like mandatory CSR, class action suits and a fixed term for independent directors.

Among other things, it also proposes to tighten laws for raising money from the public. The Bill also seeks to prohibit any insider trading by company directors or key managerial personnel by treating such activities as a criminal offence.

Further, it has proposed that companies should earmark 2% of their average profits of the preceding three years for CSR activities and make a disclosure to shareholders about the policy adopted in the process.

Welcoming the Cabinet decision, industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said that on enactment, the Companies Bill will be a boon for business, corporates, investors and stakeholders at large.

“Industry anxiously awaits a new corporate law that would lay stress on responsible self-regulation. Needless to say, the new company law is expected to be more streamlined and facilitative,” CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee said

The new law would strengthen the concept of shareholders’ democracy and offer protection of the rights of minority stakeholders.

The law also proposes to introduce responsible self-regulation replete with disclosures and accountability.

It will also facilitate the transition of controls currently exercised by the government over internal corporate processes and decisions to shareholders.

In addition, the Bill seeks to give more teeth to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) by providing it statutory recognition and endowing it with more powers.

The Bill, which was originally introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2008, lapsed because of the change of government. It was reintroduced in August 2009.

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India inks deal with Eurasian Group to curb money laundering

The EAG is a Financial Action Task Force-styled regional body with nine members —including India, Russia and China—and 29 observers, of which 12 are countries and 17, are international organisations

New Delhi: India on Thursday signed an agreement with the Eurasian Group (EAG), a regional body, to enhance cooperation on curbing money laundering and terrorist financing, reports PTI.

The agreement was signed by Thomas Mathew, joint secretary of the Capital Markets Division of the ministry of finance, on behalf of India on the occasion of the 15th plenary meeting of the group at Xiamen, China, an official statement said.

The Cabinet had approved the agreement earlier this month, it added.

The EAG is a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-styled regional body with nine members —including India, Russia and China—and 29 observers, of which 12 are countries and 17 are international organisations.

During the conference, India offered help to member nations in enhancing their technical skill in establishing better financial systems, capital market monitoring and surveillance through sophisticated IT tools.

“Help was also offered in drafting legislation, law enforcement techniques and strengthening of their respective financial intelligence units,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

India was accorded membership in the group in December 2010. There are nine such regional bodies spread across the world. The Eurasian Group is emerging as an effective body engaged in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, it added.

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