Below the line

| Updated on August 16, 2020

CBI’s U-turn

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the Bombay High Court on August 13 that it did not find any material to substantiate the allegations made by 63 moons technologies against former finance minister P Chidambaram and two other senior officials. This was in direct contradiction to the events of August 10, when the CBI had informed the Court that it was conducting a preliminary enquiry and needed some time to recover the relevant documents as allegations pertained to the year 2012-13.

Speculation is rife in industry circles that there may not be any political will in the top echelons of the government to get to the bottom of the matter. That is probably why the Department of Economic Affairs has not submitted its investigation report, which was due within 12 weeks from July 2019. Also, even after the period of 120 days, the DEA has not given sanction to the CBI to carry investigation and register an FIR against the concerned. So, has the CBI buckled under pressure from the biggies at high places of the government and changed its stance?

Interestingly, the latest CBI claim also runs counter to the CVC’s stance that the allegations in the case are “serious, specific and verifiable”! Who knows what will happen next, with the next hearing put off for three months?

Future of Future Retail

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries plans to acquire Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail Ltd is inching towards a closure, albeit at snail’s pace. RIL officials have already met the lenders, who plan to convert loans provided to Biyani into equity, but the deal is reportedly “still in the works”.

So, what is holding it back? If market sources are to be believed, the crucial meeting of the head honchos is yet to take place.

Biyani has not yet met with Ambani and his right-hand man Manoj Modi (the brain behind many an RIL deal). The Biyani deal, pegged to be at ₹25,000-27,000 crore, was to close before July 31, according to certain reports, and by mid-August, according to some others.

Fake over real

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was launching “Transparent Taxation- Honoring the Honest” for the nation in a virtual ceremony, the Taxpayers’ Charter was already circulating in social media.

Even before the end of Modi’s speech, a 12-page booklet titled ‘Taxpayers’ Charter’ started doing the rounds on social media — with ‘Ministry of Finance’ inscribed at the bottom, but without a national emblem. This missing part might have gone unnoticed, but the overall structure of the booklet and the use of the term ‘retrospective taxation’ caught everyone’s attention. The original one-page charter circulated by the Finance Ministry, with the emblem of Income Tax Department and all the correct information, went unnoticed until fact checkers at the Press Information Bureau came into action and declared that the 12-page document was fake. However, the fake charter ended up becoming part of news stories on some media platforms, especially the non-economic/non-business ones.

Forgotten cargo

For logistics professionals, ammonium nitrate is just another cargo handled regularly at ports for many years. For the common man, however, the compound has become the most dreaded cargo post the Beirut blast, which involved 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate and killed over 100 people.

In Chennai, the cargo, which had been imported from South Korea, was lying in a warehouse for over five years and nobody knew about it. After concerns were raised about it post the Beirut accident, authorities worked round-the-clock to ensure that the cargo left the city and was delivered to a chemicals company in Hyderabad.

Perhaps, had the Beirut tragedy had not happened, the ammonium nitrate would’ve remained unnoticed for another five years, observed a person who handles such cargo.

Our Bureau

Published on August 16, 2020

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