Enforcement Directorate may initiate prosecution against ITC, Shaw Wallace

Kolkata, February 20: | Updated: Feb 21 2002, 05:30am hrs
After more than four years, Enforcement Directorate (ED) is preparing to file formal charges against the tobacco major ITC Ltd for violation of Foreign Exchange Regulations Act (FERA) for an amount of about Rs 700 crore.

ED deputy director KN Sinha on Wednesday said that the investigation against ITC is complete and the departement is ready to file cases.

"We have gathered enough evidence to initiate prosecution against ITC and its officials for wilful loss of foreign exchange and procedural lapses in dealings with companies abroad," Mr Singh said said. "We have concrete evidence on the ITC case and we are ready to file a case with the chief metropolitan magistrate of Kolkata soon," he said.

Mr Sinha said tentively the department could file the case against ITC before May, 31 this year, but "We will file the case much before May, 31."

Since, FERA was replaced by Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in June last, the directorate could file cases till May 31 this year against companies for FERA violations that occured under a sunset clause.

Apart from ITC, the directorate will also initiate action against MR Chhabria controlled Shaw Wallace and Co Ltd for violation of about Rs 32 crore under FERA. Mr Sinha said the prosecution against Shaw Wallace would be initiated by March 15. "We have received instructions from our headquarters in Delhi to dispose of all pending cases lastest by March 31 this year," he said. Incidentally, the directorate had initiated proceedings against both ITC and Shaw Wallace in 1996 after which top officials were interrogated and even put in judicial custody for several months. Even former ITC Chairman KL Chugh and JN Sapru were arrested and remanded to judicial custody for several months. The directorate had then hauled up ITC and its officials for controversial deals with Mr Suresh and Mr Devang Chitalia (Chitalia Brothers). It had alleged that ITC had acquired $4 million abroad and transferred it to the Chitalias among others without prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). It was also alleged that the companys International Business Division had bought back rice exported by it to Sri Lanka from Vaam Impex.

The directorate also claimed to have unearthed irregularities in invoicing and alleged that ITC officials had committed these offences for personal gains. Last year, the ED had alleged that ITC had violated provisions of FERA by offering to pay up to $26 million to settle dues of its erstwhile Singapore subsidiary ITC Global. PTI