Contrary to claims by Speak Asia and its panellists, the company’s servers were never taken over by EOW as they are located in Singapore
Even while the investigation against ponzi scheme Speak Asia, which duped people by promising easy income, is speeding up, company’s website which was non-functional for past few months, has become partially functional as it is allowing agents to log in and check their status. However, no transactions or changes are possible on the website.
Sources from the Economic Offence Wing, Mumbai and Hyderabad have confirmed that Speak Asia’s site is registered outside India and its server is located in Singapore, therefore they (the investigating agencies) have no authority to take it over. “(Speak Asia) Server is in Singapore and never officially controlled by EOW. So no question of handing back (the server),” said a top official while replying to comments by some Speak Asia panellists that EOW has handed back its server and so the site is functioning again.
Some agents, citing an official letter from Speak Asia, have been saying that since their server has been taken over by EOW, they cannot send surveys to panellists. (read more… Speak Asia says cannot send surveys as server is in police custody!).
According to the information from the EOW it is now clear that they never had taken control of Speak Asia’s server. Then the big question is how and why the company stopped sending surveys to its panellist? This also means that either the company itself or its big agents have been lying about the server and surveys. Speak Asia stopped sending surveys from 13th May and have also not paid any money since then.
As we have mentioned earlier, the company has not paid a single paisa to panellists since 13th May and owes them about Rs2,280 crore. This is the very same company, whose officials in a press conference in Mumbai had claimed Speak Asia was backed by very good technology and had plenty of servers to send the surveys.
The multi-level marketing (MLM) company came under the scanner of investigating authorities after it became known that it was promising easy income by merely filling online surveys. Interestingly, Speak Asia continues to claims that it would shortly set up permanent establishment with five zone offices in India.
Meanwhile, EOW is investigating the matter to build a case based on concrete evidence. Agencies from major cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Pune are currently involved in investigating the affairs of the MLM company.
According to the sources, major investigation was to find out the trail of money.
All panellists of the Ponzi scheme are eagerly waiting for their money they had ‘invested’ in Speak Asia for earning huge returns. According to investigative reports, almost half of the money collected by Speak Asia was transferred to Singapore, while the rest may still be in India.
The EOW had arrested Speak Asia’s financial consultant Sanjeev Dandona and Nayan Khandor, a Mumbai-based Web designer responsible for designing e-surveys. It was revealed that the survey, which the company used to send to its panellist were designed in Mumbai itself and not in Singapore as claimed by Speak Asia.
Meanwhile, according to the reports, the chief operating officer of Speak Asia, Tarak Bajpai has become untraceable after he was granted bail by Vijaywada Court. Speak Asia’s chairperson Haren Kaur and CEO for India, Manoj Kumar and several other top officials are still at large.
Former bureaucrats and engineers have come up with suggestions of alternative models, which are clean and substantially cheaper
Following former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s spirited defence of the upcoming nuclear plant in Andhra Pradesh, activists and sector experts have all offered their views; and have written to Dr Kalam for reconsidering his position. Meanwhile, former bureaucrats and engineers have come up with suggestions of alternative models, which are clean and substantially cheaper.
Former IAS officer G Devasahayam, who had criticised Dr Kalam’s logic, has joined an ‘expert committee’ group formed by those opposing the Kudunkulam nuclear plant. He said, “KNPP has not yet gone critical (meaning fuel has not been loaded and fired). The central government should therefore seriously consider fuel-switching from nuclear to coal or gas. According to energy experts this is very much possible and feasible. Only that the reactor needs to be replaced by boiler and if necessary have a turbine also.”
Instead of nuclear power, he opined that the wind energy farms in the nearby regions of Kanyakumari and Thirunelveli districts in Tamil Nadu may be utilised to generate power. “Large wind farms with installed capacity of about 4000MW. When these were installed 1MW required four acres of land. Now the need is one acre only for 1MW. By going in for re-powering and re-engineering adopting modern technology large land under wind farm could be released and about 2000 MW solar thermal power could be installed on this land,” he said, adding that wind, solar and biomass energy together can provide enough power for Tamil Nadu and export to nearby states.
A National Academy of Engineering fellow and former Konkan Railways MD Rajaram Bojji is a well known innovator. He claims he has an alternative model ready, which can be completed within six months; which would utilise the sea waters’ energy to generate power. He said, “It is false to say we do not have any alternative. With only 30% of the coast line of India, we get 100GW of power at an investment of Rs5,00,000 crore. It is economical and cheaper than nuclear power and comparable in cost to thermal power. This I told in my Paris conference while presenting my peer reviewed paper in May 2011.”
Mr Bojji said that earlier, he had sent his paper to the Planning Commission, and his paper was forwarded to Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE). However, now his designs are ready and he has explained the whole process, but the government hasn’t responded. He said that the government is trying to force another power plant in Ratnagiri, despite the Netherlands issuing a statement expressing a doubt about French nuclear technology. Mr Bojji claims that instead of spending over Rs20,000 crore on dubious foreign technologies, his design can be set up without any import; and he is ready to use his own funds for the pilot project.
One of the biggest-ever defence contract for 126 fighter jets worth a huge $11 billion will be closely watched for any signs of corruption in the deal. Mr Antony and Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi better watch out as at the first sign of corruption, the whistles will be out and blowing loudly across the land
India is finalising one of the country’s biggest-ever defence contracts. The order is for 126 fighter jets worth an immense $11 billion. These jets are meant to replace the country’s ageing fleet of MiG 21s, which make up one-third of the Indian Air Force’s jet fighters which have been crashing regularly for no other reason but that they are aged.
Originally six companies and consortia put in bids for the tenders which were announced in early 2011. The six were: Dassault of France which is offering its Rafale jet fighter; a consortium of the pan-European EADS, BAE Systems of the UK and Finmeccania of Italy. This grouping is offering the plane called the Eurofighter Typhoon; Lockheed Martin of the US bid with its F-16 fighter aircraft; Boeing of the US which placed on the table its bid to supply the F-18 Super Hornet; Saab of Sweden offered its Gripen fighter and Russia which wanted to sell its MiG 35.
India made a shortlist of two in April this year: Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon of the pan-European consortium. The bids for the shortlisted two fighters were opened last Friday. No details have been released as to what the bids offer.
The defence ministry, it is understood, will evaluate the bids on the basis of three criteria: The cost of acquisition and what is known as the “life-cycle cost of the aircraft” and “military offset considerations.” The last criterion covers the extent of technology transfer and the investment the bidders will put into the country’s defence industries if they are chosen.
According to informed sources, the two US companies lost out because they did not offer their latest and technologically most advanced jet fighters. The controls imposed by the US government on transfer of technology to India also came in the way of these two companies.
India’s jet fighter order is stated to be of vital importance to the shortlisted bidders. Both are looking for export markets since defence budgets are shrinking in the developed world.
The Eurofighter Typhoon has four main customers: the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. Austria and Saudi Arabia also operate the jet. But military sources say there are no other firm export orders for the Typhoon at present.
The stakes are said to be higher for the Dassault. The Rafale came out as France’s decision to pull out of the pan-European project with Germany, the UK, Spain and Italy to share the development costs of a new fighter that ultimately became the Typhoon. The Rafale has no customers outside France. Dassault is hoping to sell the Rafale to Brazil and the United Arab Emirates.
All this is fine and till now everything is going by the book. But the future could be worrying. The financial well-being of both the shortlisted bidders depends heavily on securing our order. Therefore, the cynic would be justified in warning that there could be ‘pressures’ a la Bofors on the politicians, bureaucrats and Air Force bigwigs deciding the deal.
And then, $11 billion is a huge, humongous amount of money. When such money changes hands, it is but human nature that some of it will adhere to sticky fingers and become unstuck in a ‘safe’ banking haven in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands or Bermuda.
Luckily, perhaps, we have a supposed incorruptible in AK Antony, the defence minister. And we hope that he will continue to maintain his reputation while dealing with this order.
Still, we at Moneylife and in the huge Indian press as well feel constrained to issue a warning.
We will be watching this deal very closely. We assure Mr Antony and Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi that we will be able to sniff out the first odour of corruption in this deal. The press has its sources of information.
So the trio had better take care. At the first sign of corruption, the whistles will be out and blowing loudly across the land.
(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).