SFIO gets extension to probe into alleged Austral Coke fraud

Kolkata: The investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) into the alleged financial irregularities to the tune of Rs1,000 crore by metallurgical coking coal producer Austral Coke and Projects is likely to be completed by January, 2011, reports PTI.

"The investigation is still going on and we will take some more time. We had got an extension for another six months and we hope to complete the case and submit report by January, 2011," SFIO joint director Rajesh Sharma told PTI.

Mr Sharma, however, declined to throw light on the ongoing investigation, saying it could get longer if cross-border transactions were involved.

The government has ordered an enquiry by the SFIO into the alleged financial irregularities by the city-headquartered coking coal company, in January, 2010. SFIO was supposed to submit investigation report to the government in six months.

Attempts to contact Austral Coke management turned futile.

A corporate affairs ministry official had said they found 'prima facie' evidences of fund diversion, manipulation of accounts and tax evasion by the company.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in September, 2009 had barred Austral Coke from raising fresh equity after the Income Tax (I-T) department unearthed an alleged over Rs1,000 crore fraud in the company's transactions.

The I-T department had observed that a part of the Rs142.29 crore fund raised by the company last year through an initial public offer (IPO) had been used in a fraudulent manner.

"Such purchases identified so far by the I-T Department totalled up to Rs553 crore. The company has also shown sales of around Rs495 crore, which apparently were bogus," the SEBI order had said.

The SEBI order had come ahead of Austral Coke's board meeting on September three to consider raising about Rs960.22 crore through private placements with institutions.

The market regulator had said the I-T department in June had conducted raids at the business and residential premises of Austral Coke and found 'bogus' transactions to the tune of Rs1,048 crore.

The SFIO probe is carried out under Section 235 of the Companies Act under which the investigating agency can call for information or explanation from the company.


KEC International to acquire SAE Towers for $95 million

New Delhi: RPG Group company, KEC International, today said that it would acquire US-based SAE Towers Holdings for $95 million, reports PTI.

"KEC International's board has approved the proposal to acquire US-based SAE Towers Holdings, a limited liability company and its subsidiary companies in Brazil, Mexico and USA," the company informed the Bombay Stock Exchange.

KEC International is likely to acquire the company for a purchase consideration of $95 million, it said.

SAE Towers is engaged in manufacturing and supply of power transmission towers, related hardware, sub-station structures and poles for power transmission.

The transaction is expected to close this month, subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.


TRAI to issue guidelines on unsolicited calls soon

Hyderabad: Telecom watchdog, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will issue guidelines that would address the problem of unsolicited mobile calls and SMSs later this month, reports PTI.

"We have held consultations on that (unsolicited calls and messaging). We issued a consultation paper also and held an open house discussion. We are finalising our regulation on unsolicited commercial communication. It should be out during the course of this month. We will issue guidelines," Dr J S Sharma, TRAI chairman told media persons on Monday.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had to face an embarrassing situation recently when finance minister Pranab Mukherjee himself got an unsolicited call form a telemarketing company.

A Raja, Union minister for telecommunications and IT immediately instructed the ministry to take steps against such calls that "encroach" into the privacy of telecom consumers.

TRAI's earlier attempts to curb the menace did not yield any results.

The Do-Not-Call registry introduced three years ago by the telecom regulator proved ineffective for various reasons.

"It is true it did not work (Do-Not-Call registry). We are looking at that. I do not want to give any points at this stage. We have to strengthen the do not call registry so that it is efficient and effective. Wait for few days. By the end of this month we will have necessary regulation in the place," Mr Sharma said on the sidelines of a discussion on the consultation paper on national broadband plan.

Replying to question on the BlackBerry issue, he said the TRAI was not consulted on the issue.

Speaking on the broadband plan, he said the TRAI has projected that by 2014, the country will have one billion mobile subscribers.

The idea is that we will be able to reach broadband connections to everybody including all the 220 million basic telephony subscribers, Mr Sharma said.


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