Additional chief secretary M.K. Raut and OSD P.K. Janawade allegedly acquired $23,380 in the name of 23 persons, 16 of whom didn’t even travel with them to Maldives.
The two Chhattisgarh officials who are being investigated for procuring illegal foreign exchange for a Maldives holiday got the money through alleged impersonation, misrepresentation, and fraud, according to investigators.
According to an Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe report, additional chief secretary M.K. Raut and OSD general administration P.K. Janawade, and their travel agent, Raipur-based Ajay Travels, used the names of 23 people to procure the $23,380 in question – of which 16 didn’t even make the trip in 2009.
This alleged fraud seems to be the crux of the case, not the amount in question, as Section 3(A) and 4(A) of FEMA specify that all foreign exchange must be through authorised persons only.
How the alleged fraud was committed
The show cause notice to Raut, Janawade, and Ajay Travels follows a 2014 complaint at the ED sub zonal office in Raipur against Raut (then principal secretary) and Janawade for expenses incurred on a Maldives tour between 29 December 2009 and 2 January 2010.
According to the probe, the two officials claim they only paid in Indian currency, and did not purchase any foreign exchange at all – but no evidence could be found to substantiate that claim.
Thomas Cook, Kolkata, on the other hand, has submitted invoice details to show that seven passengers availed the package that was paid for in $23,380 by Ajay Travels, Raipur. Thomas Cook also submitted copies of proof of purchase of the foreign exchange from Centrum Direct Ltd, Raipur, by seven persons – the two officials and their family members.
However, while $7,000 of the total foreign exchange involved in the tour was purchased by these seven persons, $16,380 was purchased in the name of 16 other persons.
Further digging by the ED threw up more interesting findings.
The ED found that these 16 persons had not undertaken the Maldives tour at all, but had travelled to other countries using the services of the same Raipur-based travel agency – Ajay Travels. Many of them even denied having purchased any foreign exchange as well.
So, the ED has concluded that foreign exchange was purchased in their names without their knowledge.
Both Raut and Janawade have constantly maintained that they did not purchase any foreign currency at all, even as the manager of Centrum Direct Ltd in Raipur has submitted that the firm sold foreign currency to both officials, their family members and 16 other persons.
The Basic Travel Quota form also shows that $23,380 were purchased in the name of 23 passengers, including Raut and Janawade, and this amount was used towards the stay of the two officials and their families in Maldives in 2009.
It is alleged that fake flight tickets were probably submitted at the time of purchase of foreign currency, and prima facie, it seems that the signatures of the persons were also forged.
The investigation also indicated that the amount spent on hotel bookings mentioned by the two officials did not match actual payments made by Thomas Cook for the hotel stay, a New Year’s gala dinner, and airport transfers.
The show cause notice requires Raut, Janawade, and Ajay Travels to respond within 30 days on why “adjudication proceedings as contemplated under Section 13 of the FEMA should not be held against” them.
Raut did not respond to repeated queries by ThePrint, while Janawade declined to comment on the matter.