What a change

It has now become a daily routine affair to hear of stringent action being taken by various criminal and investigation agencies against the rich and powerful, who had remained unpunished so far, despite serious crimes committed by them. The era of privileges and entitlement, where the well connected and influential law breakers of India, blatantly got away with serious crimes like corruption, cheating, money laundering and tax evasion looks to be on its way out. And action is being taken by multiple agencies, firing on all cylinders. The list of the powerful ones who merrily manipulated and duped the system at will, and are now at the receiving end of determined criminal investigation, is long and varied. Let us discuss some of the well known and shocking cases in this ever growing list.

The then powerful CEO of ICICI Bank and a Padma Bhushan awardee Chanda Kochhar and her husband are under investigation by the CBI on multiple charges, including corruption and criminal abuse of power. The ED is questioning them on charges of hawala and money laundering and the ITD for tax evasion. The flamboyant and wealthy NCP leader Praful Patel and the former minister of civil aviation, is now being questioned by the ED for his dubious role in the Rs.60000 crore purchase of aircraft, which bankrupted Air India, as also the sale of valuable landing routes to Jet Airways. Naresh Goyal the wily promoter of Jet Airways is unable to game the system any more, with its liquidation being imminent, which will certainly open a Pandora’s box for him. He is already being questioned by the ITD for huge tax evasion and by the ED on charges of violating FEMA. If Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi thought that they could cheat banks and scoot away to the UK, then they are mistaken and are being hounded by the Indian government in the British courts and are likely to be extradited to India, to face trial here. Fresh criminal cases have been filed by the CBI against the fugitive Jatin Mehta of Winsome Diamonds and are also likely to be filed against the scammy Sandesaras of Sterling Biotech.

The powerful directors of IFIN, the financial services subsidiary at the heart of the giant ILFS fraud have been arrested by the SFIO and are also being questioned by the ED, ITD, and the CBI and so is the case of Udayan Sen, the former CEO of Deloitte, a giant multinational audit firm, which faces incriminating criminal charges for their collusion in the ILFS scam. It was never earlier that one heard of powerful auditors being so implicated and questioned. In fact auditors are now resigning right left and centre, the latest being the case of PwC resigning as auditors of the Anil Ambani group companies. Anil Ambani the billionaire tycoon who has straddled the system for decades was hauled up by the Supreme Court for contempt of court, forcing him to personally pay the dues of RCom to Ericsson and he himself now admits that he is getting no help from the system, as he struggles to keep his debt laden companies afloat. Yash Birla the socialite industrialist has been declared a wilful defaulter for cheating banks and the formidable and influential promoter duo of Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy have been held guilty by SEBI, on serious charges of insider trading and fraud on shareholders and have been debarred from holding any position in NDTV or any other listed company for period of two years, apart from also being banned from capital markets. The fraudulent affairs of the J&K Bank, which had the patronage of ruling party politicians for decades, are now out in the open.

This list of the powerful and rich, who blatantly and easily manipulated the system so far and duped it too and managed to go unpunished for their giant crimes, is a long one and will keep increasing at this rate. It was not so earlier. It has now happened due to strengthened laws, much better information gathering surveillance and a determined government. It reinforces the trust of the common man in the rule of the law and the intention of the government to enforce it. This however comes with a warning. The law must not be used for witch hunting and settling political scores, which has happened very often. The violators of law must be punished as per the law, without fear and favour and without any oblique political objectives. Its been a change in India for the better.


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