A two-member CBI team will soon leave for Britain to follow the trail of about Rs 120 crore allegedly received by an Indian entity from a Russian firm to secure an equipment supply order from the state-owned power major NTPC.
The money ($20 lakh) continues to be 'restrained' (or the account is frozen) in a London bank for the past three years, according to the Crown Prosecutor Service of Britain.
The CBI is investigating into the alleged irregularities in NTPC awarding a contract to Russian power equipment supplier Technopromexport (TPE) to supply equipments for its Rs 8,600 crore (Rs 86 billion) 1,980-mw Barh (Bihar) Super Thermal Power Project in 2005.
Crown Prosecutor Service (CPS) spokesperson Julie Seddon said, "the account continues to remain frozen." Asked whether anyone made any bid to de-freeze the account, Seddon, in an email response to PTI said, "there has been no application to discharge the restraint order."
While the spokesperson refused to identify the bank where the amount is parked, CBI sources said the account is with the Natwest Bank, which was frozen by the CPS after the CBI requested for the same.
The account belongs to Ravina Associates, an Indian firm that has been providing consultancy services to the Russian company TPE, which bagged the contract for the 1,980-mw Barh power project in February 2005.
Refusing to share more information, the CPS spokesperson made it clear that "a restraint order is an interim remedy made in private as it concerns the confidential financial affairs of suspects or defendants who have not yet been convicted."
In the meantime, a CBI team will soon leave for Britain to collect details about the bank account of the Indian firm alleged to have received about Rs 120 crore (Rs 1.20 billion) as kickbacks from the Russian company for providing consultancy services in bagging the Rs 8,600 crore (Rs 86 billion) NTPC project in Barh.
The sources said the team would soon leave for London for consultation with the British authorities to understand the complete chain of money transactions and the associates of the firm M/S Ravina Associates.
The CBI, which registered a case against unknown officials of NTPC and others in February 2006, had alleged that during 2002-05 NTPC had entered into three contracts with TPE Russia and transferred $53.63 lakh to it as advance money. Out of this, the Russian firm is alleged to have transferred $10.37 lakh and $10.37 lakh to M/s Ravina Associates at Natwest Bank on May 5 and May 18, 2005 respectively.
The CBI alleged that the money was paid by TPE Russia to the Indian firm as commission equalling a percentage of the contract.
The Indian company had approached a CBI court to seek lifting of the restraint order on its bank account so that it could pay the demand of Rs 44.31 crore raised by the Income Tax department on the firm.
However, the plea was turned down by the court which also imposed Rs 20,000 fine on the firm 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."