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HindustanTimes Mon,20 Oct 2014

Heat on defunct Radia firm over Rs. 1,700cr Tata-Unitech loan deal

Gaurav Choudhury, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 17, 2014
First Published: 17:15 IST(17/8/2014) | Last Updated: 00:23 IST(18/8/2014)

The government’s corporate fraud wing has questioned the role of a now-defunct firm owned by former lobbyist Niira Radia in a Rs. 1,700-crore loan transaction between Tata Realty and Unitech. The money was allegedly used by Unitech to pay for 2G licences.

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has also recommended that the registrar of companies (RoC) examine the 2007 agreement, sources said. The CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry to look into the deal and sought a copy of the SFIO report, sources said.

The SFIO made a series of recommendations in its probe report on the operations of public relations and lobbying firm Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Limited (VCCPL), which was owned by Radia, sources told HT. VCCPL also used to handle media relations for various Tata Group firms and Unitech.

“Tata Realty reiterates that it has comprehensively addressed questions from all government agencies and fully cooperated with all authorities in their investigations. Tata Realty stresses that it is committed to the highest standards of ethics and business conduct,” a Tata Realty spokesperson said.

The SFIO report, sources said, has called for action against VCCPL and its group companies for various violations, including dubious auditing.

It also said income-tax department should look into probable capital gains and tax evasion after Unitech sold its shares in the telecom arm to Norwegian major Telenor, sources said.

When contacted by HT, a Unitech spokesperson said, "We have no comments to offer." However, sources in the company said, the SFIO had cleared the realty major of all tax matters. There were a few issues related to transactions and the company had sent its response to the SFIO.

The CBI, it is learnt, has told the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the 2G case, it would probe whether the advance given by Tata Realty was used by Unitech for real estate projects or for a telecom licence.

"The scrutiny and investigations on Vaishanvi Group conducted at the behest of vested interests, who continue to pursue the motive of causing harm to us. The final report of the SFIO points to certain technical violations under the Companies Act, 1956. We are seeking the suitable recourse available under law," a spokesperson of the Vaishnavi group said.

Radia hit headlines in 2010 after her leaked conversations with politicians, businessmen, journalists and others became public during the probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

The SFIO, which enjoys sweeping powers to investigate corporate misdemeanour and can take punitive action under the new Companies Act, 2013, has recommended action against 11 top VCCPL executives, sources said.

The corporate affairs ministry ordered the VCCPL probe in 2012. It came amid a swirl of allegations against the previous government, which was accused of selling scarce radio spectrum at throwaway prices to ineligible companies. The national auditor pegged potential revenue loss at Rs. 176,000 crore. In February 2012, the SC cancelled 122 2G licences.


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