Moment of Reckoning01 February 2023
Hiren Gohain :
It may or may not be a coincidence, but it is surely striking that from two countries regarded as close allies of Prime Minister Modi two quite alarming missiles have exploded near him and his close friend corporate magnate Gautam Adani. The BBC documentary directly holds him responsible for letting the ghastly pogrom of 2002 happen in Gujarat during his watch as Chief Minister. And Hindenburgh Research an investment investigating firm of USA has directly charged PM's close friend and confidant of massive fraud which allegedly can jeopardize the entire financial system of the country. Already the news has imposed losses of thousands of crores of rupees on the wealth of SBI and LICI which had loaned huge amounts to the Adani group. And shares of his biggest companies have depreciated steeply.
The BBC documentary's content is more or less familiar to conscious sections of the country. But it now appears to have strong additional support. The government has rushed to gag it with frantic heavy-handed measures. If it thinks the scandal has already been disarmed by the SIT appointed by the Supreme Court, it could have just shrugged it off as so much chaff. But there have been some uncomfortable questions that now gather strength and challenge closure of the enquiry and would seem to highlight certain loopholes there. These questions are again gaining publicity and won't easily go away. The matter is grave enough to demand appropriate action.
I am not competent enough to cut through the dense tangle of financial transactions and evasions that the Adani group is accused of perpetrating. But the Hindenburgh Research report is confident enough to bluntly indict it of hair-raising irregularities and blatant evasions and transgressions of the rules and procedures in place for such transactions. It allegedly exposes "brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud schemes over the course of decades".
The probe allegedly brings to light "substantial debt" cornered through alleged deception that put the group under grave suspicion. Such words of scornful denigration are repeated several times in the 106 page report, which would seem to indicate firm conviction of the truth of such accusations of shady deals with shady offshore 'shell companies' which on paper provide or guarantee funds they cannot afford, of various links between companies owned by or linked to the Adani family carrying out financial deals in blatant disregard for rules in place. The complex murky transactions are alleged to be exercises in fantastic cover-ups of criminal offences against the law in the field of finance and investment.
Towards the end the report cites and indicate the Group's suspicious close relations and transactions with Amicorp, an investment firm involved in 'the IMDB international fraud scandal according to US legal case files'. Accounts of these vast transactions are audited by a tiny 'independent audit firm' that has just four partners and eleven employees. It appeared to have had audited accounts of just one more firm.
The Adani group has responded by asserting that everything has been above board and threatening lawsuits. Hindenburgh Research has countered through a Twitter message that it fully stood by its report and believed that "any legal action against us would be meritless". It went further and challenged the Adani group to "file suit in the US where we are situated". Incidentally Adani's wealth has reportedly grown by 800 p.c. during the last eight years with the Modi government in power in Delhi.
This, if proven, is far more than an embarassment for the Modi government. Hindenburgh Research says it has examined hundreds of documents and has several hundred citations in its paper of relevant parts of the documents. Both morally and legally the government is bound to order an enquiry by ED, which has been set against much smaller fries amidst much fanfare. For the report mentioned is an open indictment and not a document from which other people have garnered disquieting facts. If proved correct the report will cause ominous consequences for the country, its financial system, its economy and its political stability.
At the end of the day however, the question remains why at this precise moment both the explosions have taken place with a resounding bang.
(Hiren Gohain is a political