New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) In a scathing rebuttal to the Vaish report which suggested a fraud by former CG Power and Industrial Solutions executives, including its erstwhile Chairman Gautam Thapar, V.R. Venkatesh, the ex-CFO of the company who was also implicated in the alleged fraud, has said that the report was “biased and concocted” and did not reflect several proceedings of the investigation.
As per official sources, in a detailed submission to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), Venkatesh has claimed that the report by law firm Vaish Associates dated August 5, 2019, was “already made even before” his statement was slated to be taken on July 30.
He was interviewed on May 24 and July 29 by a partner of Vaish Associates, which was not at all mentioned in the law firm’s interim investigation report on the alleged fraud at CG Power.
And on July 30, the recorded date of interrogation, “hardly” any questions were asked, said Venkatesh’s letter seen by IANS.
The market regulator and the MCA are yet to take any action on the submissions made by the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of CG Power. According to Venkatesh, the investigating law firm was selective in recording the responses, that too under the influence of “certain invisible forces” and vested interests.
Venkatesh also alleged that during the questioning on July 30, he was shown 150-160 pre-recorded or pre-typed questions and answers on a screen out of the previous two discussions, and some questions and answers were “either engineered” or recorded in a “twisted or convoluted” manner.
With regard to some questions, answers recorded were different from those actually given by Venkatesh, he wrote, saying they were recorded in a way to remove the name or role of the erstwhile MD and CEO K.N. Neelkant.
Neelkant, however, resigned soon after being sent on leave since the instances of financial irregularities came to light. Venkatesh’s letter suggests that such changes were made either by the investigating team itself or on the behest of Ravi Rajagopal, Head of Legal, Compliance, Governance and Risk for CG Power.
Interestingly, the Vaish report, which is the basis for the management rejig at CG Power, is only interim in nature and comes with several disclaimers, including the fact that documents used for framing charges were not verified for its truthfullness and accuracy.
Further, replying on the allegation of unauthorised signed cheques in favour of Yes Bank in pursuance of a comfort letter which allegedly came to the CG Power board’s knowledge in April 2019, Venkatesh said that the concerned comfort letter was dated November 4, 2015 before he had joined CG Power as the CFO.
He further said that there was no reason to believe that the letter was not signed duly and properly at the relevant time. He observed that he used to sign cheques to Yes Bank as a joint authorised signatory, in full knowlecdge of CEO Neelkant. The former executive said that CG Power and AHL (Avantha Holdings) were part of the same group, and both entities were funded by Yes Bank.
The bank lent money in 2015, 2016 and 2017, in the absence of which CG Power would have shut, he said. The letter said that given the adverse circumstances, Venkatesh signing the cheques in favour of Yes Bank, in furtherance of a transaction undertaken before he had joined the company, was nothing wrong, adding that no actual loss occurred to the company as the bank could not encash the cheques.
He said that Yes Bank lent Rs 500 crore in 2016, Rs 220 crore in December 2017 and unsecured working capital facility of Rs 500 crore in December 2017.
He mentioned in the letter that the matter was discussed prior to May 2019 and also in the board minutes of May 22, 2019, and the company did not express any shock over the alleged fraud of re-issuance of an unauthorised cheque of Rs 210 crore, and rather stated that the cheques were issued as security measures and talked about preparing a legal defence for the company and its director.
Sudhir Mathur, the current Executive Director, also had several discussions with Yes Bank regarding the matter, Venkatesh wrote.
Venkatesh was sacked from the company’s board on August 31 over his alleged role in the financial misrepresentation and siphoning of money, a day after Thapar was removed over alleged fraud.
The company in August disclosed the findings of its risk and audit committee (RAC), which revealed that the firm and the group together could have under-reported liabilities to the extent of over Rs 3,600 crore in the financial years 2017 and 2018.
As per the company, they also understated the loans advanced to related and unrelated parties to the tune of about Rs 7,600 crore during the two financial years.
Thapar, Venkatesh and other CG Power executives Madhav Acharya and B. Hariharan were eventually barred from the stock markets and Thapar was also summoned by the MCA.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs also ordered an investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) into the matter.
In another development, CG Power said after its board meet on Thursday that it has to recover Rs 3,018.62 crore from its “promoter affiliated” companies and “connected parties”, implying to the companies related to Thapar.
Industry sources, however, said that Thapar would contest CG Power’s claims.