The Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached nearly Rs 80 crore funds of satellite services’ provider Devas Multimedia Ltd under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for its alleged illegal deal with the Indian space agency’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd.
“We have attached an amount of Rs 79,76,00,041 under the PMLA in the case of Devas Multimedia Ltd,” said the economic intelligence agency of the Union Finance Ministry in a statement here.
The attached amount is the company’s reservation fee with the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its mutual fund deposits and bank deposits.
The attachment came over a month after the ED officials searched Devas office here on January 23 and recorded statements of its Director (Finance) Ranganathan Mohan, Founder Director Desaraju Venugopal and ex-Director D. Nataraj in which they agreed to have committed the crime.
“Two other Directors who are the brains behind the crime — Ramachandran Viswanathan and M. Chandrasekhar are in the US at present,” said the statement.
As per the agreement between Devas and Antrix on January 28, 2005, ISRO was to make, build, launch and operate two S-band satellites (GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A) and lease the additional spectrum from its transponders to the former for beaming multimedia services to its customers in the sub-continent.
The UPA government, however, terminated the $300-million 12-year deal in February 2011 on the recommendation of the Space Commission for the nation’s strategic needs, including societal.
The city-based company’s two Directors and one former Director were named in the charge-sheet the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed on August 11, 2016 in New Delhi, along with former ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair and its three senior officials.
Accusing Devas of illegally entering into an agreement with Antrix by fraudulently representing certain facts and collecting investments from abroad through criminal conspiracy, the statement said the ED had probed the case on the basis of the FIR the CBI registered and its chargesheet under the provisions of the PMLA.
Signing the agreement with Antrix in 2005, Devas falsely claimed that it had ownership and Intellectual Property rights to use the technology for delivering multimedia services in India, it said.
“On the strength of the agreement, Devas raised foreign investment of around Rs 579.07 crore and transferred Rs 76.19 crore to its US subsidiary. It also transferred Rs 180.78 crore to the subsidiary under the guise/pretext of providing business support services and spent Rs 230.11 crore as legal fee,” said the statement.
Terming the deal with Antrix illegal as Devas did not have technology or ownership of IP rights to deliver multimedia services, the ED said its main purpose was to raise foreign investments on the strength and siphon off 85 per cent of these in these guises.
“The company never did any major business in India other than providing internet services to about 20-25 customers in Bengaluru. Its staff strength in India and the US was only three each,” added the statement.