Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come clean on his links with Gautam Adani and order a “full-scale investigation” into the latest allegations of financial fraud against the corporate group, as reported in the international media.
Rahul, who has persistently questioned Modi on his relationship with the Adani group, said India’s reputation was on the line because the latest allegations had come just before the heads of the most powerful nations were to arrive in Delhi for the G20 summit.
In addition to the strained ties with China, the allegations of financial fraud are likely to cast a shadow over the September 9-10 meeting.
“Why is no investigation taking place? It is very important Modi clears his name and categorically explains what is going on. At the very least, a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) be allowed and a thorough investigation take place," Rahul said.
“Why is he quiet? This is raising a very serious question on the Indian Prime Minister. The leaders from G20 countries are going to ask what is (the reason that) this special company close to the Prime Minister is being given a free ride? It is very important this matter is made clear before they arrive,” the Congres leader added.
Rahul said that reports in international publications indicated there was no level playing field or transparency in India, with the Prime Minister protecting a businessman who faces serious charges. He said this would affect investor sentiment and perceptions about the country.
He added that these newspaper reports were based on paper trail, internal emails and other evidence.
Addressing a news conference in Mumbai where Opposition alliance INDIA’s third meeting began on Thursday, Rahul referred to reports published by several newspapers, including the Financial Times and The Guardian of Britain, as well as some Indian dailies.
The reports were based on the findings of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a network of investigative journalists from six continents.
“The current flavour is G20. The G20 is about India’s position in the world,” Rahul, a former Congress president, said.
“What is very important for a country like India is that there is a level playing field and transparency in our economic environment and business. These newspapers are stating that over a billion dollars of money went from India, circulated in different places and came back to India.”
Rahul went on: “The question arises — whose money is this? Yeh kiska paisa hai? Adani’s money? Or somebody else’s?
“Second question — the mastermind behind this is a gentleman called Vinod Adani, brother of Gautam Adani. Two other people involved in this round-tripping are Nasser Ali Shaban (Ahli), and a Chinese national, Chang Chung-Ling. Why are these foreign nationals allowed to play with the valuation of a company that controls almost all of Indian infrastructure?”
Rahul continued: “There was an investigation. Evidence was given to Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India), and Sebi gave a clean chit to Adani. And it is very interesting to note that the gentleman who gave the clean chit to Adani is today a director in NDTV (bought by Adani). So, it is very clear, there is something very wrong here.”
He added: “We are trying to show the world that there is transparency and a level playing field. The question is, why this one businessman who is close to the Prime Minister was allowed to move a billion dollars to pump up his share price, to use that money to capture India’s airports, ports?”
Rahul referred to how international newspapers had described the Adani group as “Modi-linked” and asked why the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI were not researching Adani’s affairs.
The 100 questions the Congress had asked earlier this year after the Hindenburg accusations against the Adani group had covered various aspects, including the allegations of money-laundering, manipulation of share prices, misuse of political power to help the company, and the hurdles before the investigations.
Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal too commented on the controversy on Thursday.
“The Adani mega scam is the largest corruption scandal in Indian history. Since Modi assumed office, his single-point agenda has been to enrich his best friend. The Modi government and Sebi facilitated suspicious offshore individuals to take ordinary Indian shareholders for a ride,” he said.
“Who are Chang Chung-Ling and Nasser Ali Shaban, who ended up controlling 13 per cent of (the) Adani shares through offshore operations from Mauritius? It is clear that Modi’s best friend is running an international money-laundering racket.”
Party communications chief Jairam Ramesh issued a statement, which said: “As New Delhi gears up for the G20 summit meeting, it is worth recalling PM Modi’s words at the November 2014 Brisbane G20 summit calling for global cooperation ‘to eliminate safe havens for economic offenders’, to ‘track down and unconditionally extradite money launderers’ and to ‘break down the web of complex international regulations and excessive banking secrecy that hide the corrupt and their deeds’.
“Today’s explosive revelations about the clearly brazen violations of Indian securities laws by the Adani group and its close associates are a reminder of how hollow these words have proven.”
Ramesh added: “They are a reminder of the lengths and depths to which the Prime Minister has gone to protect his corrupt friends and their misdeeds by rendering India’s regulatory and investigative agencies toothless, reducing them to political tools to intimidate the Opposition rather than to investigate wrongdoing. The stench of corruption around the network of Adani-linked shell companies located in opaque tax havens is only getting stronger with the money trail being established now.”
Ramesh said the actual ownership of two of the 13 benami shell companies that Sebi had failed to identify had been revealed.
“But questions remain about Sebi’s role. Did the obvious conflict of interest revealed by the association of past Sebi chairpersons with the Adani group play a role in Sebi’s inability to properly investigate these shell companies?” he said.
“Why did Sebi fail to disclose to the Supreme Court that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had carried out investigations against the Adani group in 2014, that were then closed by the Modi government in 2017?”
The AAP on Thursday renewed its allegation that the Adani group had the blessings of Modi, referring to their “friendship”.