The Government is mulling a probe by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income-Tax Department into the role of two Mauritius-based entities to identify their stakes in Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd which executed the controversial S-band deal with the ISRO. It is also contemplating investigation into the activities of certain unknown government officials for their “collusive behaviour” and acts of omission and commission in extending undue favours to Devas at the Government exchequer’s cost.
Highly placed sources said that various irregularities have come to notice through the findings of a high-level team, which went into the deal, and needed to be probed further.
They said the Government is also contemplating asking the ED and the I-T to ascertain the credentials of Columbia Capital Devas (Mauritius) Ltd and Telecom Devas (Mauritius) Ltd, which had major stake in Devas.
“The Government has received the probe report by the high-level team. There has been a recommendation by the team to probe the role of two Mauritius-based companies which had major stake in Devas. ED and I-T department can be asked to look into the recommendations,” a source privy to the development said, requesting anonymity.
He, however, maintained that “no final decision has been taken in this regard’’.
Devas did not give any comment on an email query sent by PTI in this regard.
S-band spectrum allocation
Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, had signed a deal with Devas in January 2005 to provide it with crucial S-band wavelength which is primarily kept for strategic interests of the country.
The spectrum was meant for running digital multimedia service by leasing 90 per cent transponders on two satellites — GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A.
Following complaints of massive irregularities, the Government scrapped the contract in 2010 and ordered an enquiry by the high-powered review committee last February.
Based on the committee’s findings, the Government had on May 31, constituted a high-level team under the chairmanship of former Central Vigilance Commissioner, Mr Pratyush Sinha, to further examine the facts and circumstances of the agreement.
Shareholding pattern, rise in share capital
The team has found uneven shareholding patterns and rise in capital in Devas between its inception in December 2004 and March 2010. The company was established by Forge Advisors-USA with a share capital of Rs one lakh.
According to the report, soon after the signing of the agreement, the ordinary share capital had increased to over Rs 5 lakh with 12 shareholders including three members of the FA-USA team, who held 60 per cent of the ordinary share capital, and the two Mauritius-based entities which held one ordinary share and 50 per cent of the preferential shares each.
It noted as “unusual” the rise in its share capital from Rs one lakh to about Rs 18 lakh in 2010 “with no asset base and no Intellectual Property Rights or patent in the relevant technology, and which has been making losses since inception, to collect Rs 578 crore as share premium from foreign investors’’.
“In order to get a clear picture of the changing pattern of ownership of Devas, the economic interest of various individuals in Devas and the extent to which the increase in share value has been encashed by individuals, the shareholding pattern of the company and of the Mauritius-based entities needs to be looked into by an appropriate investigative agency,” the high-level team said.
Based on the committee’s report, the government is mulling appropriate action against certain ISRO officials for hiding the facts about the deal and remaining “silent” on various issues.