Chowgule Steamships: The Mystery of Promoter Quail Investments from Guernsey
Moneylife Digital Team 21 June 2024
Chowgule Steamships Ltd (CSL), the flagship company of the Chowgule family, has been reporting a Guernsey-registered Quail Investments Ltd as its promoter group entity with about a 6.23% stake in the company. The problem is Quail Investments was incorporated in 1973 and dissolved in 1974 and has not filed any annual returns since then, according to information provided to an investor by the registry office in Guernsey! Moreover, there is absolutely no information available about the promoters of Quail Investments beyond post box no86 at Julian’s Court, Guernsey. 
 
 
The matter gets interesting for several reasons. First, this mystery company from Guernsey, Quail Investments, has provided a loan of Rs823.25 lakh to Chowgule Steamship Overseas Ltd (CSOL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CSL, repayable on demand at an interest of 3%pa (per annum) in FY20-21. How would a company that does not exist be in a position to provide a loan? We wrote to Vijay Chowgule, chairman of CSL, various other board members and the company secretary to find out. We have yet to receive an answer. 
 
 
We find that Chowgule Steamship Overseas also registered in Guernsey, was voluntarily disposed of in September 2023, according to a regulatory filing by Chowgule Steamships on 4 September 2023.
 
In the filing, Chowgule Steamships says, "The Company had passed the special resolution on 26 July 2019 to effect the sale of all the vessels owned by its step-down subsidiaries. Consequently, CSOL was left with no vessels in the group. The current disposal, procedurally, is to effect the voluntary liquidation of Chowgule Steamships Overseas Ltd, having no assets except a marginal bank balance and a negative net worth. The said liquidation won't have any impact on the financials or working of Chowgule Steamships."
 
Further, it says the board approved the leasing or sale of land not exceeding 40 acres from Sande Lavghan village of the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra to Angre Port Pvt Ltd or Chowgule Lavgan Shiprepair Pvt Ltd, subject to approval from shareholders.
 
According to the shareholding pattern published by Chowgule Steamships on its website, Quail Investments, a corporate body from the promoter group, holds 2,260,843 shares or 6.2268% stake in the company. It also shows the permanent account number (PAN) of Quail Investments as AAACQ1856E. 
 
A simple search on the website of the Union ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) shows no results for Quail Investments Ltd. In other words, the company, with a PAN, is not registered with MCA.
 
 
At the same time, the submission made by Chowgule Steamships to the registrar of companies (RoC) also shows the address of Quail Investments as 'PO Box 86, Julian's Court, St Julian's Avenue, St Peter Port, Guernsey'. There is a small twist, though: the Guernsey address shows it is from Delhi state, India, with the pin code 111111! As per the coding system of India Post, the pin code 111111 is not valid because the pin assigned from Delhi starts with 110 and pin codes starting from 111 to 119 are never allotted to any place.
 
 
Meanwhile, on 16th June, the Times of India reported that Goa’s economic offences wing (EOW) of the police has booked the former chairman of Chowgule and Company Pvt Ltd (CCPL), Vijay Chowgule, for allegedly cheating the company of over Rs1,000 crore along with four others. A complaint was apparently filed by CCPL against Mr Chowgule, Pradip Mahatme of Altinho, Pratap Shirke, a resident of the UK, known and unknown associates of Fort group (formerly Trinity Trust Company Ltd) based in Ireland, and Maria Christine Pucher, resident of Liechtenstein. The money was ostensibly to be used to set up another wholly-owned subsidiary called Rudra Representative, which, in turn, lent the money to tax haven-based companies in Guernsey, Singapore and Panama. The loans to these companies were quietly written off, raising serious questions about it. 
 
It also turns out that this is the second case registered by the Goa police against Mr Chowgule. In February 2022, it had registered a case of cheating against Pradip Mahatme and directors of Angre Port Pvt Ltd (APPL)—Vijay Chowgule, Nathan Chowgule, Rohini Chowgule and others—for allegedly forging a resolution to write off a loan of over Rs336.6 crore.
Comments
pallavoorsubramanian
1 month ago
This is one among the many shoddy dealings in the corporate world with promoters brazenly creating fake entities and siphoning money . The Statutory Auditors of the Company must be brought before NFRA . As far as Chowgule is concerned, he will go scot-free like other crooks with the blessings of those in power.
pgodbole
1 month ago
Interesting research (and expose) by MoneyLife. Haven't seen anything on the subject (fraud? intriguing) in any other financial press. What are statutory auditor's notes on Quail's investment in Company and writing off of Company's loan or COSL? And how did Quail Investment obtain a PAN (If at all it did, or was its PAN also a fraud). Many questions. Did any watchdog (SEBI, RoC) slip somewhere? Will they take any cognizance now? Interesting to see.
Kamal Garg
1 month ago
Intriguing and shocking. I think many more such companies would be there in India.
Small Business!
1 month ago
To run a privately held small company, we have to repeatedly do KYC of all directors, major share holders, ultimate beneficiary and what not…… how the hell such companies are still operating?
iaminprabhu
1 month ago
Such THUGS & LOOTERS should be arrested and deeply investigated for blatant FALSEHOOD!?????????????????????????
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