New Delhi: A Delhi Court has refused to order defreezing of a UK bank account of a consultancy firm accused of receiving USD 20.07 million in kickbacks from a Russian firm for securing a Rs 2,066 crore contract from NTPC, saying it cannot be done without the approval of India and
CBI had registered a case against the NTPC officials, Russian firm M/s FGUPVO Technopromexport (TPE) and others including Delhi-based consultancy firm M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd and its head Ravina Khurana, who allegedly received the kickbacks in the contract.
The court rejected the plea of Khurana and her firm seeking order to Natwest Bank London for defreezing their account.
The special CBI court said the account was frozen following an arrangement between the two countries and it cannot be defreezed without their approval.
"Parties here are the Government of India and Government of the UK. So it is clear that the property seized is to remain there unless there is new agreement to the contrary.
"In other words, the account frozen at request of Indian court shall remain frozen in the UK London till such time the Governments of India and the UK arrive at some different settlements," the judge said.
The court also noted that the money parked in the account would be confiscated, if after trial, it was proved to be "ill-gotten".
The court also imposed a cost of Rs 20,000 on Khurana for "having wasted its time in an attempt to bring back prima facie illegitimate money, which belonged to the tax payers and had found its way to the account".
The account of Khurana and M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd was frozen following an order of the court on April 19, 2006 as CBI registered a criminal case on March six that year against unknown officials of the NTPC and M/s FGUPVO Technopromexport (TPE), Russia.
The Income Tax department had demanded Rs 44.31 crore from Khurana and M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd following huge money allegedly received by them in their account at Natwest Bank, London from M/s Technopromexport for providing consultancy.
According to the CBI, during 2002-2005, some unknown officials of the NTPC here obtained illegal gratification in award of super thermal power contract at Barh in Bihar.
The FIR in the case was registered on the information from Interpol London, which alleged that 15 million pounds was lying in the UK Bank account and appeared to be illegal money meant for kickbacks.
The CBI alleged that NTPC had entered into three contracts with TPE Russia and transferred USD 53,633,554 to it as advance money.
The TPE later transferred USD 10,37,36,221 and USD 10,37,2,441.07 to M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd at Natwest Bank on May five and May 18, 2005 respectively, according to the CBI.
The CBI alleged that more than USD 20.07 million pound was paid by TPE Russia to M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd as commission equalling a percentage of the contract.
As per the allegations, M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd did not file any Income Tax returns since 2000-01 till the FIR in the matter was registered on March six, 2006.
"The amount lying in the account of Ravina Khurana and M/s Ravina Associates Pvt Ltd is ill-gotten money. It was deposited by the way of kickbacks by TPE to reward various corrupt Indian officials who had helped it to secure the contracts. The amount has already been received by the applicants but she did not bother to reflect them in the IT returns," the court said.
It added that in fact after registration of the FIR, she got "wise" and filed IT returns indicating the said amounts.
"In other words, she had no intention of disclosing those income prior to registration of the FIR. It was an attempt to whitewash the money which had deposited in her account. So obviously, it was by the way of kickbacks," it said.
Khurana had sought defreezing of the account in order to pay the amount sought by the IT department.