New Delhi: India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating alleged pay-offs made by Russia’s Technoprom Exports (TPE) for getting a contract to supply boilers to NTPC Ltd’s Barh power project in Bihar, has seized the passport of C.P. Jain, NTPC’s former chairman and managing director, said at least four people aware of the development.
India’s federal investigating agency has said in a letter reviewed by Mint that a transfer of $20 million (Rs97 crore now) was made by Technoprom to its Indian agent Raveena Associates after the contract was awarded to the Russian firm.
Mint reported on 17 June 2008 that Interpol, or International Criminal Police Organization, which facilitates cross-border police cooperation, had told CBI that an offshore transaction did take place, and involved the transfer of Rs90 crore to Raveena Associates.
Both Jain and R.S. Sharma, NTPC’s current chairman and managing director, declined comment.
The Technoprom saga involves the Rs8,700 crore Barh power project that started in 1999. The Russian firm won a contract in February 2005 for the supply of boilers to the project. However, work on the project stalled after a contractual dispute between NTPC and Technoprom, with the latter demanding more money, citing higher steel prices.
After Technoprom Exports was awarded the contract in February 2005, CBI raided the house of Jain in June 2006. It subsequently came to light that Technoprom had not disclosed the existence of its Indian agent—Raveena Associates— at the time of bidding for the contract. Since then, CBI has been investigating whether Raveena Associates used the money to pay off Jain and other people who helped Technoprom win the contract.
Jain was head of the country’s largest power generation utility from 1 September 2000 to 31 March 2006.
“The passport was taken away a month back. This is unfortunate,” said a senior NTPC executive who did not want to be identified.
While a CBI spokesperson did not respond to queries emailed by Mint on 17 August, H.S. Brahma, the Union power secretary, said he was unaware of Jain’s passport being seized. Raveena Khurana did not respond to phone calls or to a message left on her mobile phone on 18 August.
Law enforcement agencies seize passports to prevent people being investigated from fleeing the country.
In an email response that claimed it very much respected the “country” and its “peaceful people”, Technoprom said it “had no relation” to the “problem”.
Mint reported on 10 August that NTPC planned to issue a legal notice to Technoprom Exports after discussions brokered by diplomats and ministers against the background of India’s healthy relations with Russia failed to yield results. While the contract value is around Rs2,066 crore, Technoprom is adamant on an additional payment of Rs1,700 crore, citing higher steel prices. NTPC is India’s largest power generation company with a capacity of 30,644MW. The delay in the Barh project will affect its plans to raise its generating capacity to 50,000MW by 2012.
“Things have taken an unfortunate turn in this case. This underscores the need for more transparent tendering processes ab initio, instead of favours rooted in governmental relationships that vitiate regular commercial processes,” said Anish De, chief executive at Mercados Asia, an energy consulting firm.