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Malegaon case: Supreme Court asks Bombay High Court to deal with Purohit’s plea

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Purohit

New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Bombay High Court to deal with the plea of Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, one of the accused in the 2008 Malegaon bast case, that he was being prosecuted in the matter without any valid sanction.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the high court that Purohit’s plea be dealt with on November 21. A special court on November 2 had commenced the formal trial against Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and five other accused after framing of charges under various penal law in the Malegaon blast case.

Purohit, in his plea, referred to the earlier apex court order by which the trial court and the Bombay High Court were directed to deal with the claim of Purohit that he was being prosecuted under penal laws including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act without any sanction from the authorities.  The plea also alleged that the charges have been framed against Purohit and others by the trial court which had commenced the trial without dealing with the claim on sanction.

Six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon, a town about 200 km from north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.

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RTI applicants allegedly sent condoms in response to queries, probe on

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RTI

Bikaner | Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district administration on Thursday began a probe into allegations that two RTI applicants were sent envelopes containing condoms in response to their queries, an official said.

RTI applicants Vikas Chaudhary and Manohar Lal, residents of Chani Badi in Bhadra tehsil of the district, had sought information related to development work done there in 2001.

After their second appeal, the Rajasthan Information Commission had directed the gram panchayat to provide information to the applicants. They had received two separate envelopes.

The inquiry was initiated after a video purportedly showing applicants finding condoms inside RTI envelopes had gone viral.

“RTI applicants have reiterated their allegations during investigation and gram sevak had submitted in written that he did not put any objectionable material in any RTI envelope and information was provided to the applicants against the application they had filed,” SDM Bhadra Raj Kumar Kaswa said.

He said the Hanumangarh district collector has sought a factual report in the matter from the Zila Parishad CEO and the block development officer.

Sarpanch of Chani Badi panchayat Pushpa Bansal has lodged a complaint at Bhirani police station in the matter, stating it to be a conspiracy.

Hanumangarh Zila Parishad CEO Navneet Kumar said he has received information related to the matter and it is being investigated, adding that it could be the outcome of rivalry between two groups in the village.

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Men who lost their empires : Part II

Ali Azar

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  1. Vijay Mallya

 

From once having the world at his feet to then falling at the country’s feet in a bid to avoid extradition, the “King of Good Times” has witnessed life in full circle. Vijay Mallya’s first foray into the world of business was when he was given chairmanship of the United Breweries Group upon the death of his father Vittal Mallya. The 27-year-old Vijay Mallya inherited a company that owned a liquor manufacturing plant, a brewery and a distillery; but also controlled other businesses such as polymer, battery, foods and pharma. Being hardworking and ambitious at that time he expanded his footprint into engineering, newspaper and chemical businesses. However, he soon realised that the liquor business had the most potential and began focussing his time and resources into that business. By March 2005 United Breweries Group was the world’s second largest liquor maker. At the height of his success and fame, the flamboyant business magnate along with his Dutch partner purchased a UK based Formula 1 racing team and named it Force India. Mr Mallya’s tentacles even spread as far as cricket when he purchased the franchise of the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) Royal Challengers Bangalore team in its inaugural auction held in Mumbai in Feb 2008. His bid for a team of $ 111.6 million was second only to Mukesh Ambani’s team. At one point he was definitely one of the most well-known faces of the Indian corporate sector and was even declared the 40th richest man in the world by Forbes magazine in 2007.

His downfall came from an unwise decision to enter the highly competitive and capital intensive airline business in 2005 on the auspicious day of his son’s 18th birthday. Initially, the airline seemed to be ticking the right boxes with team Mallya providing top of the line luxuries and amenities with class-leading services. He even personally picked his flight attendants, all of whom had to be presentable and attractive. Soon, Kingfisher Airlines was India’s second largest in terms of the number of passengers with more than 25% domestic travellers swearing their allegiance to the brand Mallya; however, being a capital intensive industry, it was still to turn a profit and was continually incurring more and more debt. In 2007 with the intention of starting international flights (to begin flying international routes an airline company must have been in operation for at least 5 years) he purchased the ailing Air Deccan which was at that time a four-year-old company; the purchase entailed even more debt. This massive amount of debt coincided with rising crude oil prices which reached $140/barrel and a depreciating rupee. Soon, the toxic combination of high debt, rising crude prices, falling rupee and the recessionary conditions that hit the market proved too much for the airline to handle. Not long after, the cash strapped Kingfisher Airlines stopped payment of salaries to its staff as well as vendor and suppliers and was witness to strikes and protests. Finally, after dragging its feet for a few more years, the beleaguered airline saw its license being cancelled and closed its doors for business in late 2012.  Being confident of his plan when things had not hit rock bottom, Vijay Mallya had given a personal guarantee for his company’s borrowings, but when Kingfisher Airlines could not pay back its loaned amount, lenders chased the promoter for repayment, which Mallya could not pay back. For a few years, Vijay Mallya managed to hold off paying the banks. Being a member of the Rajya Sabha and using his political clout did help. But finally, after a change in government in 2014 and insurmountable pressure on him to make the repayment; Vijay Mallya fled to London on March 2nd 2016 in order to take refuge and escape being jailed as an economic offender and a wilful defaulter. Indian authorities have been trying to extradite him since then and with general elections coming up, the issue has become politicised. Just a month back, a magistrate court in the UK declared him eligible to be extradited back to India; but once again he intends to appeal this decision and has bought himself a little more time in the process. The entire story of this Rs 9000 crore defaulter culminated with him being declared as India’s first “fugitive economic offender” by a Mumbai court on 5th January 2019. The act came into existence just last year when President Ram Nath Kovind signed off on it on August 5th 2018 giving Vijay Mallya the dubious distinction of being the first person in India to be convicted under it. Now, the government can confiscate the properties that are in Vijay Mallya’s personal name in their effort to recover the sum of money due from him.

 

 

More examples of men who have run their run their empires into the ground include Anil Sharma, Chairman of the Amrapali group, once the poster boy of the real estate sector in Northern India. From executing the construction of some of the biggest projects in the country, to owning 5 star hotels and malls, to having cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as his brand ambassador to foraying into fields of FMCG, hospitality and entertainment to even having a political career; he is now in the news for not handing over 100’s of people their rightful homes. The Supreme Court has frozen his bank accounts and properties and those of 40 sister companies. Several complaints of fraud and cheque bouncing have also been registered against him.

Another real estate investment company and builder, Unitech, which claimed to be India’s largest real estate builder at one time sees its founder in trouble. Ramesh Chandra, worth over 11 billion $ at his peak in 2007, is yet to regain his billionaire status. The company fell into trouble after it got embroiled in the 2G telecom corruption scandal that led to his younger son Sanjay being jailed. From an all-time high of Rs 547 per share, today Unitech’s share price is just Rs 1.95 per share.

Yet another example is Steel and Power sector tycoon Brij Bhushan Singal and his sons. From once having a sprawling empire and a billion $ steel making company Bhushan Steel and Bhushan Power – that was a supplier to the biggest names in the country and the world, his empire today is but a shadow of its former self. It can be attributed to bad business decisions.

Another very interesting way in which one might lose an empire through personal reasons is the example of none other than the richest man in the world – Amazon’s very own Jeff Bezos, who is at a risk of losing half his net worth by divorcing his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos. Bezos was brazenly believed to be cheating on his wife with his mistress Lauren Sanchez and is at risk of depleting his personal wealth of a whopping 125 billion $ thereby putting his entire empire at risk.

 

 

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Men who lost their empires : Part I

Ali Azar

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Everybody loves a rags-to-riches story, a tale of that underdog who came up the tough way and made it to the top. Hollywood has made films on them, artists have composed songs on them and mothers have recited inspiring stories to their children about them. But, what if this tale is turned upside down? How many of us would be interested in a story about someone who had it all, and then went out there and lost it? The answer is – more.

There are numerous reasons why business empires have failed over the years and most can be attributed to a special reason unique to that particular circumstance. However, a few common factors that crop up in most cases are — disregard for the law, illegal actions such as money laundering, stock manipulation, financial crimes, economic downturns, or just, plain stupid!

This two-part series provides a glimpse into how business empires are created; what it takes to mould them into the multi-billion $ money making behemoths which we all have come to know of, and of course, that extra special element which the men on our list possess; the very same men who have had the dubious distinction of running their empire into the ground. The focus of our article is from the Indian standpoint and the three top examples take their colour from the angle of self-destruction of these mighty empires.

  1. Singh Brothers

At the height of its power, Malvinder and Shivinder Singh’s empire boasted mighty investments across Pharmaceutical, Healthcare and Financial Service sectors. Their story began in 1999 when they inherited a publicly listed company that included a licensed subsidiary to sell drugs to a highly profitable US market from their father Parvinder Singh in their mid-twenties.

Business / Sector Name of Company Acquired by
Pharmaceuticals Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. Daiichi-Sankyo
Healthcare Fortis Healthcare IHH Healthcare
Financial Services Religare Enterprises Ltd. A consortium of PE investors, Anand Rathi Wealth Management

 

The early 2000s were a bountiful time for the Singh brothers. A conducive business atmosphere coupled with a steadily rising stock market led the way for their financial success. Through hard work and a good team of competent executives, they were able to grow at a fast pace and evolve their company Ranbaxy into one of the poster boys of the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry. They had success in their financial services venture as well, branching out into financial, insurance and wealth management from merely being a stockbroking firm. It was during this very same period that the brothers founded hospital chain Fortis Healthcare in 2001 which grew exponentially since then and went on to be listed in 2007 and managed to surpass Apollo Hospitals as the largest hospital chain in India by revenues. However, the fortunes of the brothers did not last too long as they went out on an acquisition spree and overburdened themselves with a mountain of debt. Add to this, allegations of siphoning off funds, poor corporate governance and even fraud began to surface. Ranbaxy was sold to Japanese pharma giant Daiichi-Sankyo in 2008 without informing the latter about the US FDA’s investigation on adulteration of drugs on the former. This eventually led to a 500 million $ payout by Daiichi which they will manage to recover with interest from the Singh brothers (just last month the Singapore Court of Appeals ruled in favour of Daiichi). After much drama which included the unseating of founder promoters, shareholder rebellion, board members being replaced, rival bids, counter offers; not to mention allegations of fraud and fiscal mismanagement; Fortis was acquired by Malaysian healthcare giant IHH in 2018. The Singh brother’s fortunes in Religare Enterprises dwindled as well; their shareholding being reduced to a meager 3%; as lenders seized shares pledged with them in lieu of loans given to associate companies. Another twist in this story entails the mysterious relationship the Singh brothers shared with their maternal uncle and spiritual guru — leader of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (a spiritual commune that sits along the river Beas in northern India and has the backing of 4 million followers) — a man by the name of Gurinder Singh Dhillion. Over the years, the brother’s main holding company, RHC Holdings, loaned approximately Rs 2700 crores to businesses controlled by the Dhillion family at zero interest rate which was not returned to the lender. The downfall of the Singh empire can be attributed to thorough dereliction of corporate governance resulting into related party transactions, unethical practices such as siphoning off funds without board approval, murky business transactions hidden by layers of shell companies, money being continuously routed back and forth under mysterious circumstances to enrich themselves and their spiritual guru (Mr Dhillion) at the cost of the company. The empire went from boom to bust; from being cash rich to the tune of Rs 9500 crores after the sale of Ranbaxy in 2008 to a point where their total debt hit roughly Rs 20,000 crores in 2018.

 

  1. Anil Ambani

From being one of the richest men in the country to nearly having his empire crumbling right before his eyes; the story of the younger Ambani would make a great case study in Ivy League MBA courses on what NOT to do. After receiving his share in the division of his father — Dhirubhai Ambani’s empire in 2005, which included businesses in the Financial Services, Energy and Telecom sectors; along with cash of Rs 25,000 crores, Anil Ambani was in a sweet spot; financially. Initially, these companies grew at a good pace and provided handsome returns to its investors. By March 2006, with the consolidation of his telecom companies, Anil had toppled his brother Mukesh in net worth to become the third richest Indian after Laxmi Mittal and Azim Premji. However, it was believed that he began to invest his money keeping only short term objectives in mind, unlike his brother who always had a long term game plan. Anil Ambani started investing frivolously in an array of businesses such as entertainment, healthcare, manufacturing, defence, transportation and aviation. Since he was not able to generate much cashflow from his inherited businesses, the source of his aggressive expansion into his new ventures was borrowed money i.e. debt. With the interest meter ticking at a rapid pace, things didn’t go according to plan. The ADA group has 5 listed entities, whose market capitalization peaked out at an astounding Rs 4 lakh crores. Presently, it stands at an embarrassing Rs 26,000 crores.

Sr No. Name of Listed Entity Present Market Cap (as on 4th Jan 2018) Peak Market Cap (Rs in Cr.) Date of Peak Market Cap
1. Reliance Power Ltd. 7,756.17 1,01,790.40 25th Feb 2008
2. Reliance Naval & Engineering 1,017.88 6,732.61 1st Jan 2016
3. Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. 7,805.54 61,115.89 7th Jan 2008
4. Reliance Communications 3,871.75 1,69,320.48 9th Jan 2008
5. Reliance Capital 5,476.20 70,241.16 9th Jan 2008
TOTAL 25,927.54 4,09,200.54

 

To pare his enormous debt, Anil Ambani sold his Mumbai power business to Adani enterprises for 18,800 crores and is in negotiations to sell his telecom business to his brother as well. Mr Ambani also found himself in the eye of the storm when his flagship company, Reliance Communications Ltd. defaulted on payment of overseas non-convertible debentures to the tune of $300 million in 2017 and has also come under scrutiny over negotiations between France & India for $7.8 billion of Dassault Aviation’s Rafale jets. Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, which built Mumbai’s first metro line, missed a bond payment last year. While he still manages to hold on to his empire by the skin of his teeth, it is in a much-depleted state from what it was in its prime.

 

 

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