While Indrani Mukerjea’s alleged involvement in the murder of her daughter, Sheena Bora, occupied the prime time and front pages of national media for more than a week, stories of the financial dealings of Indrani and her husband, Peter Mukerjea, were whispered in a hushed tone. The police team that investigates the murder has also been probing the financial angle as a possible motive for the murder since the couple had children from their earlier marriages. Former Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria, who led the investigation initially, had even asked the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police to look into the financial dealings of the couple.
In fact, Serious Fraud Investigations Office, an agency under the ministry of corporate affairs, had probed in detail the sale of INX Media after Nira Radia tapes were exposed in 2010. SFIO filed a 35-page investigation report with revelations pointing at the involvement of a major corporate house and recommended penal action. Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta reported it first.
THE WEEK has a copy of the SFIO report and it explains the formation of various companies with cross holdings. The report explains the holding patterns and transactions in those companies. Indrani, who held the major stake in INX Incon, INX Recruitment, Indrani Incon, IM Media and INX Executive Pvt Ltd, received funds of around Rs.450 crore from Xanti Commercials, Hitech Dealers and Tiara Comtrade Pvt Ltd, which were actually front companies of a big corporate house.
The report said “the funds received from M/s. Hitech & M/s. Tiara were advanced with a specific motive of investment in INX Media Pvt. Ltd. And to ensure this, another agreement between Indrani Incon & INX Services was signed so that the funds amounting Rs.90 crore were used for investment in the equity of INX Media and nothing else.”
Such transactions, cross-holdings and interest-free convertible loans are commonly used by companies. “Creating ‘suitcase’ companies and a maze of financial transactions is a practice adopted widely,” said Sanjay Ghaisas, a chartered accountant.
According to the SFIO report, “it is explicitly clear that convertible loan, if stays unpaid, can be swapped with the equity of the borrower’s company. Here, as is detailed, the equity which was purchased was not of the borrower’s company but of distant entities, namely M/s. INX Media Pvt Ltd & M/s. IM Media Pvt Ltd. These two companies were utilised to invest in M/s. INX News Pvt Ltd. Thus, it can be seen that the veil of corporate entities was used to make surreptitious investments in the guise of convertible loans.”
SFIO had recommended criminal proceedings with specific charges against the people involved. “But, it never reached its logical end during the UPA’s tenure and is not happening even now,” said Thakurta. “Is it because of the involvement of a very powerful corporate house behind all these dirty crimes?”