Govt tells agencies to speed up probe of Ramdev’s businesses

Govt tells agencies to speed up probe of Ramdev’s businesses

New Delhi: The government welcomed yoga guru Ramdev’s decision on Sunday to call off his nine-day-old fast against corruption, but is unlikely to relax the investigation of his business affairs.

The Congress-led government has asked investigating agencies, particularly the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), to speed up their probe of Ramdev’s firms and assets, said three officials from the agencies.

The yoga teacher had been fasting since 4 June, calling for tougher laws against corruption and for black money stashed in foreign accounts to be brought back to India, among other things.

He began his indefinite fast in Delhi, but a police crackdown on the venue forced him to shift to Haridwar. Ramdev was hospitalized on Friday after his condition deteriorated, and on Sunday he agreed to break his fast.

“Ramdev’s decision to call off the fast has nothing to do with our investigation," said an FIU official, asking not to be named. “In fact, on Saturday we were told about the likelihood of this. Yet, the instructions from the government is clear—get to the bottom of his empire."

Ramdev’s Divya Yog Mandir Trust said neither the yoga guru nor any senior functionary of the trust is available for comment.

The investigations relate to exports by various companies owned by Ramdev or his close associates. “It seems the export consignments were rejected by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, money has been remitted against these consignments from a third party," the FIU official said.

“We are suspecting that these exports are used to corner export promotion grants and for routing black money. FIU is collecting data on bank accounts while DRI is looking into excise duty evasion," he said.

Officials from FIU, DRI, income-tax department and enforcement directorate held a closed-door meeting at the finance ministry on Tuesday to fine-tune the investigation and delegate responsibilities.

A second FIU official, who also didn’t want to be identified, said DRI’s Mumbai unit is coordinating the investigation.

The first FIU official said his agency is tracking accounts held by companies and trusts run by Ramdev or his associates in 15 banks. “We have found some suspected transactions in two bank accounts... We are in the process of verifying each account and transactions since the formation of the companies."

A DRI official said: “We are trying to find the bill of entries, the consignments which are rejected by USFDA and verify it with the bank transaction details collected by FIU and cross-check if money has been remitted against the rejected consignments. Also, what are the export benefits claimed on such consignments."

If export benefits were claimed on rejected consignments, it is a serious economic offence, said the DRI official, who also requested anonymity. “Firstly, it is a case of money laundering, and secondly, it’s forgery to obtain government incentives."

Ramdev on Thursday declared he had businesses worth 1,100 crore run through four trusts.

The Congress party on Sunday welcomed his decision to call off the fast.

“The Congress has nothing to do with it... But it is good for his health. He should have listened to medical advice earlier," party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

But the government attacked civil society members who are putting pressure on it to bring in tough laws against corruption.

“The Constitution has given the power to legislate only to Parliament and the state assemblies," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said. “If 5,000 or 6,000 people dictate from outside what the Parliament ought to do, this will weaken democracy."

PTI contributed to this story.