Opposition slams PM Modi’s silence on OCCRP report against Adani Group; Rahul Gandhi seeks JPC probe

Rahul Gandhi also demanded PM Modi to order an investigation against Adani Group claiming that India's reputation was at stake.

BySouth First Desk

Published Aug 31, 2023 | 8:21 PMUpdatedAug 31, 2023 | 8:22 PM

Adani JPC Rahul Gandhi

In the wake of fresh allegations against the Adani Group, the Opposition parties slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not acting upon the continuously surfacing allegations against the business conglomerate.

The Congress, on Thursday, 31 August, claimed that “corruption” in shell companies linked to the conglomerate is getting stronger and only a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) can uncover the truth.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) should probe reports that Adani family associates invested “hundreds of millions” in the company through opaque investment funds based in Mauritius.

The CPI(M) charged that the links of the Gujarat-based business conglomerate has with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured no action against it.

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) made revelations about offshore trading of funds by the billionaire Gautam Adani’s business group on Thursday.

Also read: OCCRP alleges Mauritius-based opaque funds invested in Adani stock

‘Important questions’

A thorough investigation should take place in the Adani matter, Gandhi told reporters in Mumbai. “Why is PM Modi silent? Why doesn’t he get this investigated,” he asked.

Addressing a news conference in Mumbai, Gandhi referred to news articles by some prominent foreign newspapers on the Adani Group.

“These are not random newspapers. These newspapers affect investment in India and the perception of India in the rest of the world. They are stating that over a billion dollars of money went from India, was circulated in different places and then came back to India,” he said.

“The first question arises: whose money is this? Is it Adani’s or someone else’s? The mastermind behind this is a gentleman called Vinod Adani who is the brother of Gautam Adani. Two other people are involved in this round-tripping of money. One is a gentleman called Nasir Ali Shaban Ahli and another is a Chinese gentleman called Chang Chung Ling,” he said.

“So, the second question arises — why are these two foreign nationals being allowed to play with the valuation of one of the companies that controls almost all of Indian infrastructure,” Gandhi said.

“The gentleman who conducted SEBI investigation and gave a clean chit to Adani Group is now a director of a media company owned by the same group,” Gandhi said.

‘India’s reputation at stake’

“This is raising very serious questions on the PM just before G20 leaders come here. It is important that this issue is made clear before they (G20 leaders) arrive,” Gandhi added.

“India’s reputation is at stake ahead of the G20 meet in the country. PM Modi should take action and get the Adani issue investigated,” he said.

The OCCRP alleged in its report that hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in the publicly traded group stocks through Mauritius-based “opaque” investment funds managed by the partners of the promoter family, a charge denied by the conglomerate vehemently.

“Fresh evidence has emerged about the Adani Group’s manipulation of stock prices of its companies to inflate their value and assets. Adani’s links with Prime Minister Modi have so far ensured that the regulatory authorities do not take any action against the widespread fraud and manipulation of the stock market,” the CPI(M) said in a statement.

“The report also shows that the SEBI was looking into the matter of offshore funding of Adani companies in 2014 but had closed the enquiries subsequently. The fresh evidence necessitates a serious probe and the Supreme Court has to step in to ensure that there is no cover-up,” the Left party added.

Also read: Why do steelworkers want RINL to take over Gangavaram from Adani?

‘Truth will not stay suppressed’

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh questioned the role of market regulator SEBI in properly investigating the role of shell companies linked to the Adani Group.

“Despite the Modi government’s best efforts, the truth will not stay suppressed forever. However, the full story about the flow of benami funds into the Adani Group, how foreign citizens came to play a role in critical national infrastructure and how PM (Narendra) Modi violated rules, regulations and norms to enrich his close friends can only be revealed by a JPC,” he alleged at a new conference at the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee office

Ramesh said “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?”

In a post on X, Ramesh said that as New Delhi gears up for the 2023 G20 summit meeting, it is worth recalling Prime Minister 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 by The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, The Financial Times and The Guardian 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 said.

‘Protecting corrupt friends’

“They are a reminder of the lengths and depths to which the PM 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,” he alleged.

Ramesh said the revelations also provide some answers to the more than 100 pointed questions the Congress party has asked the PM about his “murky relationship” with Adani as part of the Hum Adani Ke Hain Kaun (HAHK) series, the Congress general secretary said.

The PM continues to be silent on these questions of national interest, he claimed.

Ramesh said there is now fresh evidence linking Adani associates Nasser Ali Shaban Ahli and Chang Chung-Ling to an effort to bypass Indian securities laws relating to minimum public shareholding that were put in place to prevent share price manipulation.

“Shell companies controlled by Ali and Chang that have been revealed to be fronts for Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod accumulated substantial stakes in four Adani Group companies covertly and illegally,” he alleged.

Also read: Six entities under lens for suspicious trading in Adani shares: SC panel

‘Stench of corruption getting stronger’

“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 claimed.

He said the actual ownership of two of the 13 benami shell companies that SEBI has failed to identify, despite years of “investigation”, has been revealed.

“Why did the SEBI fail to disclose to the Supreme Court that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had carried out investigations against the Adani Group in 2014, that were then closed by the Modi government in 2017, Ramesh asked.

In a statement, the Adani Group categorically rejected what it called “recycled allegations”, describing those as “yet another concerted bid by Soros-funded interests supported by a section of the foreign media to revive the meritless Hindenburg report”.

The fresh allegations come months after US short-seller Hindenburg Research wiped away close to $50 billion in value of Adani Group stocks with allegations of accounting fraud, stock price manipulation and improper use of tax havens by the ports-to-energy conglomerate. The Adani Group has denied all the Hindenburg allegations.

(With PTI inputs)