ED’s major action against U S Awasthi, MD of IFFCO
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday attached Rs.54 crore worth of assets of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-Operative’s Managing Director U S Awasthi in connection with the money laundering case. Awasthi and family members were caught by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a fertilizer import scam and payment of kickbacks to the tune of Rs.685 crore. Earlier ED attached Awasthi’s properties worth Rs.20.96 crore.
The anti-money laundering agency, in a statement, said the “proceeds of crime had traveled from various entities having business interests with IFFCO and a company called IPL to the entities controlled by Rajiv Saxena, which were projected as commission income and the same was further layered and parked in various entities under the control of various persons, including Amol Awasthi (son of Udai Shanker Awasthi), or to these persons themselves and projected in their hands as genuine income/ expenses”.
The assets, provisionally attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on September 22, include mutual funds, equity shares, bonds, and bank balances and are valued at Rs.54.24 crore. The case relates to illegal commissions worth more than Rs.685 crore transferred to the NRI sons of IFFCO Managing Director and CEO Awasthi and Indian Potash Limited (IPL) Managing Director P S Gahlaut as well as others by overseas suppliers from 2007 to 2014.
Indian Farmers’ Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) is a multi-state farmers’ cooperative, while IPL is its company involved in supplying fertilizers for which the government provides subsidies to keep the rates affordable for farmers. The ED had earlier attached fixed deposits valued at Rs.27.79 crore in the name of Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Rajya Sabha MP Amarendra Dhari Singh, deposits of about Rs.36.55 crore kept in the Swiss bank accounts of Atrium Holdings Limited, and Artistic Holdings Limited (both beneficially owned by another accused in the case, Pankaj Jain), apart from residential and commercial properties valued at Rs.54.11 lakh belonging to Jain. The MP was arrested by the agency. He later got bail from a court.
The ED had filed a charge sheet in the case before a court in July last year. The CBI found that between 2007 and 2014, in order to claim higher subsidies, Awasthi and Gahlaut, as part of a “criminal conspiracy“, imported fertilizers at highly-inflated rates. This included their commissions from various overseas suppliers. The commission amounts were siphoned out of India through their sons based in the United States and other accused persons, including the owners of Jyoti Trading Corporation and the Rare Earth Group, Pankaj Jain, who was linked to both companies, his brother Sanjay Jain as well as Dhari and Rajiv Saxena (an accused in the VVIP choppers deal case), the CBI said in its FIR.
CBI said that Saxena and his associates received USD 114.32 million (around Rs.685 crore) at a transaction rate of Rs.60 per dollar as illegal commission in the bank accounts of his group companies and in the individual accounts of Jain, Gahlaut’s son Vivek, Awasthi’s son Amol as well as the RJD MP.
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