The Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached assets worth over Rs 79 crore of Devas Multimedia Ltd in connection with its controversial deal with Indian space agency ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd under PMLA on Tuesday .
“We have attached Rs 79,76,00,041 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in case of Devas Multimedia Ltd.,” the economic intelligence agency of the Union Revenue Department said in a statement here.
The attached assets are in the “form of upfront capacity reservation fee available with ISRO as well as in the form of mutual fund and bank deposits.”
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had taken over the case based on a CBI FIR which alleged that Devas had illegally entered into an agreement with ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL) by fraudulently representing certain facts.
The attachment of the satellite services provider company’s money came over a month after ED officials searched Devas office here on January 23 and recorded the statements of its Director (Finance) Ranganathan Mohan, founder-Director Desaraju Venugopal and former Director D Nataraj.
“Two other Directors, the brains behind the crime, Ramachandran Viswanathan and M. Chandrasekhar, are in the USA at present,” the statement said.
On February 1, a Delhi court fixed March 30 to consider a chargesheet in the Antrix-Devas deal case after the Central Bureau of Investigation sought an adjournment of hearing since the agency was still awaiting government sanction to try accused officials.
The case has been filed against former Indian Space Research Organisation chairman G. Madhavan Nair, former Additional Secretary in the Department of Space Veena S. Rao, and then ISRO Director A Bhaskar Narayana Rao and others.
The CBI filed the chargesheet on August 11 last year against them for allegedly causing a loss of Rs 578 crore to the exchequer in the Devas-Antrix deal.
Antrix had signed a deal with Devas in 2005 to provide it with crucial S-Band wavelength, which is primarily kept for strategic interests of the country.
“On January 28, 2005 Ms Devas Multimedia Private Limited Bangalore, falsely claimed that it had the ownership and intellectual property rights to use the technology for delivering multi-media services (to) enter into an agreement with ISRO/ACL,” the ED said in a statement.
It said, “Few employees of ISRO/ACL also conspired with Devas for entering into the agreement.”
“On the strength of the said agreement, Devas raised foreign investment of Rs 579.07 crore. Devas also incorporated its subsidiary company in America in the name of Ms Devas Multimedia America Inc. and out of the total foreign investment raised, an amount of Rs 761.90 crore was transferred to it as investment,” the ED said.
It added that an “amount of Rs 180.77 crore was also transferred to its subsidiary in America in the guise/pretext of providing business support services and a further amount of Rs 230.11 crore was spent as legal fee and out of the said amount a major portion was transferred to USA in the guise/pretext of legal fee.”
The agency claimed that the agreement entered by Devas with the ISRO/ACL is “illegal” as Devas didn’t have any technology/ownership of intellectual property rights to deliver the multimedia services.
It said “the main purpose” of entering into the agreement with ISRO/ACL was to raise foreign investments.
“The subject company never did any major business in India other than providing internet services to about 20-25 customers in Bangalore. However, nearly 85 per cent of the foreign investment raised was siphoned off out of India in the guise/pretext of investment or services or fee,” it alleged