IndUS Business Journal

CBI arrests PNB GM, seals Nirav Modi’s Alibaug farmhouse

Feb 21, 2018 0

New Delhi/Mumbai– The CBI on Wednesday said it has arrested a General Manager-rank officer of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) in connection with the Rs 11,300 crore fraud and sealed diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s Alibaug farmhouse in Maharashtra.

Rajesh Jindal, who was holding the charge of Mumbai-based PNB’s Brady House branch between August 2009 and May 2011, was arrested on Tuesday night after daylong questioning in Mumbai.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials said the fraud perpetrated by the issuance of Letters of Understanding (LoUs) and Foreign Letters of Credit (FLCs) by PNB for sanction of loans to diamantire Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi’s group of firms took place during Jindal’s tenure.

Jindal, presently posted as GM (Credit) at PNB’s Head Office in New Delhi, was heading the second largest branch of the PNB when the practice of issuing the LoUs without sanctioned limits began.

Jindal is the 12th accused to be arrested in the case so far. He was on Wednesday presented in a special CBI court in Mumbai which sent him to the agency’s custody till March 5, an official said.

The agency also sealed Nirav Modi’s Alibaug farmhouse spread over 1.5 acres near the Mumbai seashore, a day after a search by the CBI there.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is also probing the PNB fraud case separately, on Wednesday carried out searches at 17 locations in Mumbai. It carried out searches at four firms suspected to be shell companies.

Officials connected to the case said the businessman bought the farmhouse in 2004 for Rs 32 crore in his name. “The farmhouse has a palatial bungalow ‘Rouapanya’ spread over 12,000 square feet. It has a swimming pool, library, gym and other luxuries.”

The CBI’s move was part of its multiple raids at residential and office premises of the accused ever since it filed two FIRs on February 14-15 against Nirav Modi and the Gitanjali group of firms respectively.

The agency officials continued to question an Executive Director and General Manager level officials of the Brady House branch along with Modi’s staff and associates, including Saurabh Sharma, who is President of the Foreign Finance Division of Firestar International Pvt Ltd, and Subhash Parab, Finance Executive.

Beside, the agency also examined executive-level officials of Mehul Choksi’s Gitanjali group — Gitanjali Gems Ltd, Gili India Ltd and Nakshatra Brands Ltd.

Earlier on Tuesday, the agency had arrested three employees of Nirav Modi and two of his uncle Mehul Choksi’s Gitanjali Gems and Nakshatra firms.

Nirav Modi’s Firestar International firm’s President Vipul Ambani, its Senior Executive Arjun Patil, and Executive Assistant and authorised signatory of the diamond merchant’s three accused firms, Kavita Mankikar, were arrested on Tuesday.

Chief Financial Officer of Gitanjali group, Kapil Khandelwal, and its Manager Niten Shahi were also held on Tuesday.

Vipul is the son of late Dhirubhai Ambani’s younger brother Natubhai Ambani.

Those arrested on Tuesday were presented in a CBI court on Wednesday and sent in the agency’s custody till March 3.

On Tuesday, the ED officials said over 120 shell companies were allegedly linked to Nirav Modi and Choksi, who along with their respective family members are said to have left the country in early January.

The ED is investigating 79 shell companies owned by the Gitanjali chief and 41 owned by Nirav Modi in India and examining if the money taken from banks was diverted to these shell companies. (IANS)

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Mizoram to get first regional agricultural centre with Israeli collaboration

Feb 21, 2018 0

Guwahati– A regional centre for agriculture set up with Israeli collaboration will be inaugurated in Mizoram — the first of its kind in the northeast region — on March 7.

The centre has been set up to exclusively process citrus fruits.

Israel will provide the expertise and professional support to run the centre, which will cater to the entire northeast, Israel Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said during a meeting with Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Jitendra Singh.

An official statement said that the project was a result of the collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, and the governments of Israel and Mizoram.

There are 22 such centres operational in India, including in Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. The first such centre was established in 2008 in Haryana.

Carmon said that Israel wants to establish one centre in each of the remaining states in India in the future.

The Ministry for the Development of North Eastern Region will coordinate wherever required.

“It will benefit the farmers of northeastern region in the long run. It will also serve as a model of learning for other countries in the Indian subcontinent,” Singh added. (IANS)

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India contributes $1 mn for Tonga devastated by Cyclone Gita: UN

Feb 21, 2018 0

By Arul Louis

United Nations– India in contributing $1 million for relief efforts in the Pacific Ocean Kingdom of Tonga that was devastated by Cyclone Gita last week, according to the UN.

Of that $500,000 would be given as immediate relief to Tonga and another $500,000 would be allocated to it from the India-UN Development Partnership Fund (I-UNDPF), the UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) announced Monday.

“Following the assessment of the damages caused and priorities needing support, the Government of Tonga will identify the rehabilitation projects to be supported through the I-UNDPF,” UNOSSC said.

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the Category 4 cyclone was the worst on record to hit Tonga.

Cyclones of that intensity can have gusts between 225 and 279 kilometres per hour.

The nation’s parliament was destroyed by the storm, which caused extensive damage across the archipelago.

The International Red Cross said that according to initial assessments about 70 per cent of Tonga’s population are affected. Tongatapu, where the capital of the country’s capital NukuEalofa is situated, is among the worst hit areas, it said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a message of sympathy to Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva, according to a press release from the Suva, Fiji-based Indian High Commission that also covers Tonga.

“India stands in solidarity with the friendly people of the Kingdom of Tonga in this difficult hour of adversity,” Modi said in his message offering the $1 million aid, according to a High Commission press release on Twitter.

The first project under the I-UNDPF is a Climate Early Warning Systems in Pacific Island Countries including the Cook Islands, which covers Tonga and other island nations in the region, UNOSSC said.

“The project aims to increase resilience from natural disasters of these seven Pacific island countries and contribute toward the Sustainable Development Goal of Climate Action,” it added. (IANS)

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Export credit agencies: Potential partners for Indian infrastructure

Feb 21, 2018 0

By Taponeel Mukherjee

Export credit agencies (ECAs) have globally played a significant role in promoting trade and investments by providing insurance and funding. It is important for global infrastructure investors and the Indian government to look at ECAs as a significant enabler of much-needed infrastructure investments in India.

This is especially true for new infrastructure projects, or greenfield projects, that need to be funded. The focus on the role of ECAs needs to encompass that of an insurance provider, an investor and a liquidity provider in foreign exchange.

A centralised agency needs to be set up to work with foreign private investors and ECAs. The focus should be on a few specific infrastructure sectors to start with. This will help develop a template for the partnerships to work for all other sectors in the future.

Once the sectors are identified, the focus must be on creating contract templates that can be used to create efficient financing mechanisms. Only once the projects in the pilot sector are implemented should the mechanism be used to fund new sectors. A well-drafted financing and contract mechanism will go a long way in boosting investments in the years to come.

There are a few fundamental advantages that a robust ECA mechanism can provide that will boost infrastructure investments. Firstly, a lot of foreign commercial lenders may not be able to access Indian investments, especially greenfield, due to the perceived high credit-risk involved. The ECA can provide insurance to make infrastructure assets in India more attractive.

Secondly, ECAs, with their credit insurance and political risk insurance, make debt investments more attractive for foreign investors. Debt will be the primary source of funding. ECAs, through their credit-risk mitigating mechanism, greatly assist in boosting debt investments.

Thirdly, ECAs need to work with private investors to look at products that help extend the maturity of the payment stream due from the project or the borrower. This will help foreign commercial banks with capital to deploy in longer-dated infrastructure projects. Simply put, a foreign lender looking for 10-year assets, might be able to finance a 15-year asset if ECAs can design a product that helps in doing so. Being able to extend maturities will make more infrastructure projects feasible for lenders.

Fourthly, ECAs can also assist in boosting infrastructure by creating mechanisms that allow foreign lenders to lend in their home currency. One of the biggest risks foreign lenders in India face is the foreign exchange risk. ECAs can create pools of liquidity that allow lenders to hedge the local currency risk from India.

From a due diligence perspective, ECAs can act as a second layer of analysis and risk management, as each ECA will undertake its own independent risk analysis of projects. Lenders who come through partnerships with such ECAs will be able to finance projects that are likely to be of higher quality and better structured.

The ability of the ECA to do additional analysis and provide the requisite funding mechanism will also encourage more greenfield risk-taking. A well-structured regulatory mechanism in partnerships with multiple ECAs has the potential to provide the required boost to greenfield projects.

The Credit Enhancement Fund announced in the Budget in 2017 can also get a boost by collaborating with ECAs from different countries. The Fund is a great start, but if policymakers can create an environment to encourage ECAs, it will lead to more efficient capital flow within the ecosystem. The aim of the Fund is to provide a boost to infrastructure investments by providing insurance to infrastructure projects. Allowing ECAs from other countries to operate within India will allow even more infrastructure investments to be created.

In a country with a large infrastructure deficit and a banking sector struggling with NPAs, effective mechanisms to improve the flow of credit is essential. ECAs provide a significant source of funding and expertise that must be looked at in greater detail. (IANS)

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Microsoft announces Indian languages support for e-mail addresses

Feb 21, 2018 0

New Delhi– Microsoft on Wednesday announced support for e-mail addresses in 15 Indian languages across its apps and services, including Office 365, Outlook 2016, Outlook.com, Exchange Online and Exchange Online Protection (EOP).

Indian users would be able to use local language e-mail addresses for Outlook accounts on their personal computers, the company said on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day.

It would also allow users to seamlessly send/receive mails to/from local language e-mail addresses via Outlook client on PCs, Outlook.com in addition to Outlook apps for Android and IOS.

“Making e-mail addresses available in 15 languages is an exciting step to making modern communications and collaboration tools more accessible and easier to use for all,” Meetul Patel, COO, Microsoft India, said in a statement.

“We are making technology use the language of people and not requiring people to first learn the traditional language of technology,” Patel added.

The initiative is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to support Email Address Internationalisation (EAI) across its products and services eco-system and make technology accessible in local languages.

The languages being introduced are those that support Unicode — an international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts.

Microsoft’s products will also support additional Indian languages as and when their IDNs and e-mail addresses become available in the future, making this feature forward compatible.

Last month, Microsoft announced the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Neural Networks (DNN) to improve real-time language translation for Hindi, Bengali and Tamil languages.

This technology would help users in getting results that are more accurate and natural while surfing the Internet across any website on the Microsoft Edge browser, Bing search, Bing Translator website, as well as Microsoft Office 365 products like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype. (IANS)

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1% rate cut in provident fund deposits announced

Feb 21, 2018 0

New Delhi– In a blow to government employees, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) on Wednesday decided to lower the interest rate on provident fund deposits to 8.55 per cent from the existing 8.65 per cent.

The rate cut decision for the fiscal 2017-18 was taken at the meeting of the Central Board of Trustees of the EPFO, sources said.

In the last fiscal, the EPFO had cut the rate to 8.65 per cent from 8.8 per cent in 2015-16.

The latest rate cut comes amid reports that the EPFO sold a portion of its investments in the exchange-traded funds (ETF) worth Rs 2,886 crore earlier this month. That had given rise to hopes that the retirement body, which has some five crore members, will retain the interest rate. (IANS)

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Reforms undertaken in India in right direction: Donald Trump Jr

Feb 21, 2018 0

Kolkata– US President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. on Wednesday said regulatory reforms in India’s real estate sector during the last four-five years are in the “right direction” and these are “important” for foreign players looking to invest in this space in the country.

“I have seen a lot of changes over a decade… some of the reforms that have taken place over the last four-five years are corrections in the right directions… I think in the end, in the long-run… these are the important reforms are needed to happen,” Trump Jr, who is real estate firm Trump Organisation’s Executive Vice President, told reporters here.

He, however, said if he was excited about the marketplace, but at the same time it was a bit of “frustration” for him to turn down new deals and projects in India due to the presidency of his father.

“While he will be in office, there will be some self-imposed rules on new deals,” said the eldest son of the US President.

Saying his firm was “bullish over India for a long period of time”, he however noted that due to his father’s political position, they were unable to do the deals, “which is shameful for me, because I have spent so much of time to prospering these relationships. It’s obviously understandable”.

Asked about how many deals his real estate company had to lose out on in India since his father took office, Trump Jr said: “We were probably looking to close a dozen deals… now, I am not saying that all of these deals would have come through. Some of the deals we are talking about take years to actually be implemented. I imagine five-six deals could have happened… but we have to turn them down.”

India is the Trump Organisation’s biggest international market, with four real estate projects underway. The largest is in Gurugram. In Pune, a Trump-branded project has been built. And in Mumbai, a 78-story tower with 400 residences is scheduled to be completed next year.

Asked whether the organisation is looking to expand its portfolio in India, he said: “We are a real estate company. We have a big hotel portfolio, we have big golf portfolio, so we can expand away from commercial and residential sectors. We can look at resort and hospitality sector. Again that should be later on, not now.” (IANS)

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FDI in India only up 0.27% in Apr-Dec 2017

Feb 21, 2018 0

New Delhi– Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India increased by a marginal 0.27 per cent to $35.94 billion during the April-December period of the current fiscal, according to data released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) on Wednesday.

The FDI entering the country during the corresponding of the the last financial year stood at $35.84 billion.

Instead, FDI inflows during the first nine months of the ongoing fiscal fell by 4 per cent in rupee terms at Rs 2,31,457 crore.

The major sectors attracting FDI during April-December were telecommunications ($6.13 billion) computer software and hardware ($5.15 billion), services ($4.62 billion) and construction ($2.5 billion).

The three main countries of origin for FDIs into India during the period in review were Mauritius ($13.34 billion), followed by Singapore ($9.21 billion) and the Netherlands ($2.38 billion).

While a strong inflow of foreign investments help improve India’s balance of payments, the consequent strengthening of the rupee against major global currencies acts as a dampener on the country’s exports.(IANS)

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Allahabad Bank has outstanding exposure of Rs 516.79 cr in Rotomac group

Feb 21, 2018 0

Kolkata– State-run Allahabad Bank on Wednesday said it has an exposure of Rs 516.79 crore to debt-laden Rotomac group as on January end and the lender has the required provision for the same as per RBI norms.

According to a regulatory filing, the bank said it has an outstanding of Rs 43.09 crore to Rotomac Exim Pvt Ltd as a sole banker, Rs 314.56 crore to Rotomac Global as multiple banking lending and Rs 159.14 crore to Rotomac Exports as a consortium arrangement with Bank of India as a lead banker.

These three accounts constitute Rs 516.79 crore of outstanding exposure as on January 31, 2018.

“The aforesaid accounts of Rotomac group classified as non-performing assets as per IRAC norms of RBI and the required provision has been made,” it said in the filing.

The bank said the accounts of Rotomac Global and Rotomac Exports have been filed in National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and was admitted on September 20, 2017.

Complaints have already been lodged with the CBI, ED and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence against the group. (IANS)

 

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55 lakh GST returns filed in January: Official

Feb 21, 2018 0

New Delhi– The New Year saw as many as 55 lakh Goods and Services (GST) returns being filed for the month of January so far in line with a rising curve of assessees under the country’s new indirect tax regime, GST Network (GSTN) Chairman Ajay Bhushan Pandey said on Wednesday.

The last date for filing initial GSTR-3B sales returns for any month is the 20th of the subsequent month. Businesses, however, can continue to file returns after that date on payment of a late fee.

“The total number of GST-3B returns filed in the month of January till date is 55 lakh,” Pandey told reporters here.

As per GSTN data, 56.30 lakh GSTR-3B returns were filed in December bringing in Rs 86,703 crore of revenue.

In November 53.06 lakh such returns were filed for a total revenue to the exchequer of Rs 80,808 crore.

Meanwhile, the Union Finance Ministry said on Wednesday that GST collection figures for January would be released officially at a later date.

“GST Revenue Collection figures appearing in certain section of media are not authentic. Therefore,the same may be ignored. The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance releases authentic GST Revenue figures for every month through PIB (Press Information Bureau),” it tweeted. (IANS)

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