Rahul Gandhi promises to probe Adani group if voted to power | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Rahul Gandhi promises to probe Adani group if voted to power

Oct 18, 2023 01:36 PM IST

Gandhi referred to a report in The Financial Times on Adani Group’s over-invoicing of coal imports and called it a direct theft while accusing Modi of protecting Adani again and again

Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday promised to probe the Adani Group if the Congress is voted back to power in the 2024 national polls while asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect his credibility by ordering an investigation.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)

Gandhi maintained the revelations about Adani were creating an impact. “Now, questions are being raised on the Prime Minister’s credibility as there is only one person who can protect him [Adani Group founder Gautam Adani]. I am trying to help the Prime Minister. Come clean; save your credibility. But he does not want to come clean.”

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Gandhi referred to a report this month in the British business daily The Financial Times (FT) on Adani Group’s over-invoicing of coal imports. He called it a huge story about a direct theft while accusing Modi of protecting Adani again and again. “While our [state Congress governments] are giving power subsidy, Adani Group is over-invoicing coal and stealing directly from people of India. This cannot happen without the protection of the Prime Minister.”

Adani Group dismissed what it called FT’s “renewed” attempts to “rehash old and baseless allegations” against the conglomerate. It accused the paper of running a relentless campaign against the group to “advance vested interests under the guise of public interest”.

Gandhi wondered what was “so special” about Adani that the government could not probe the group. The government has opposed the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the matter.

Gandhi hit out at the regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for saying that they were not getting documents. “But FT got all the documents.” He added it was very clear that the highest level of the government—the Prime Minister—was protecting Adani. “They have all documents but no action is being taken. When you switch on the light or fan, Adani gets money, and who is protecting Adani? The Indian Prime Minister. In India, Adani can do anything. But no investigation will take place.”

Gandhi said Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar is not the Prime Minister and not protecting Adani. He was responding to a question about his ally’s meeting with Adani and distancing himself from the demand for a JPC probe against the Adani Group. “If he [Pawar] were the Prime Minister, we would have asked him.”

In August, FT reported two associates of Gautam Adani’s brother, Vinod Adani, used Bermuda’s Global Opportunities Fund to amass and trade large positions in shares of the conglomerate, citing documents a network of investigative journalists shared with the British business daily. The daily said a Vinod Adani employee oversaw the investments Nasser Ali Shaban Ahli from the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan’s Chang made, raising questions over whether they were frontmen used to bypass rules for Indian companies that prevent share price manipulation.

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the network of investigative journalists, shared with FT the intricate paper trail that shielded their identity from regulators and the public. FT said it is the first time that potentially controversial owners of Adani stock have been identified since the American short-selling firm Hindenburg Research in January accused the Adani Group of running the “largest con in corporate history”.

Hindenburg alleged the entities Vinod Adani controlled manipulated the share prices of some of the group’s 10 listed entities. The conglomerate denied the allegations even as it knocked over $90bn off the Adani Group’s valuation.

FT noted the new documents identify Ahli and Chang as two of the most significant investors in the broader scheme Hindenburg, outlining a series of bespoke investment structures within the Global Opportunities Fund Ahli and Chang used exclusively to trade Adani stocks.

FT said the Adani Group has denied getting favours from the government but its expansion has gathered pace since Modi took office and often dovetailed with the Indian state’s economic agenda. It added a package of reforms in 2018 allowed Adani to add six privatised airports to the conglomerate’s strategic interests the following year.

The allegations spilled into Indian politics after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised questions in parliament about Modi’s ties to Adani. FT said the new documents show that Indian regulators have long suspected a conspiracy to manipulate Adani shares. It added this was contrary to the impression given in an affidavit to the Supreme Court this year. In the affidavit, the regulator said that “the allegation that Sebi is investigating Adani since 2016 is factually baseless”.

FT cited previously unreported Indian government correspondence between Sebi and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, which polices smuggling and economic crime, and said two separate investigations into Adani were underway in January 2014.

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