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The nefarious world of C Sivasankaran

By Arindam Majumder & Shreya Jai
April 30, 2018 18:20 IST
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Corporate ministry documents show that the Siva's firm kept taking loans from public sector banks like State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank which gradually turned to bad loans.

A cobweb of shell companies, presence in multiple tax havens around the world, private jets, and powerful friends to help - C Sivasankaran has it all on his resume to be called an oligarch.

What he didn't have was a penchant to do business and sustain it.


From picking up millions of hectares of land parcel across the world to investment in his latest ventures - a cab hailing company and a wind power firm bears the same modus operandi - money routed from tax havens but never used for intended purpose.

The Central Bureau of Investigation in its FIR said that Siva took loans from IDBI bank only not to use it to repay debt for a group firm - a gross violation of India's guidelines for foreign investments.

The trend continues even in the Chennai-based entrepreneur's latest ventures - a cab hailing firm and a renewable energy venture.

The two companies that are prominently named in the FIR - BroadCourt Investments and Win Wind Oy holds majority stake in Utoo Cabs and WinWind Power Energy Limited.

Sivasankaran founded a company called Utoo Cabs Limited in 2015 to jump into the cab aggregator business - by then a very cutthroat sector due to pricing competition between Ola and Uber.

Records reviewed by Business Standard shows that 51 per cent of the company is held by BroadCourt Investments - a British Virgin Islands-based entity which is owned by the Siva Group in a convoluted structure.

According to documents which traces the firm’s incorporation structure, Sivasankaran is a director in the firm which was floated by Singapore-based offshore services firm PortCulaggregatorNet.

Sources in the cab agreegator industry said that the Utoo Cabs has ceased operations and all their drivers have left the company. The app of the compay is no more functional.

“At one point of time in 2016 Utoo Cabs had around 100 cars in their fleet, they even tried expanding from Chennai to other cities in South India, even launching service in Bangalore. They shut operations soon thereafter,” the person said.

However, Utoo Cabs kept receiving funds. Corporate affairs ministry data shows that Utoo Cabs did a rights issue even in January this year to raise around Rs 46 lakkh. The funds, the company said will be used for expansion purpose.

A company spokesperson didn’t reply to detailed queries.

However, it had earlier termed the offshore entities as personal investment vehicles of Sivasankaran and that no investment or business vertical of the Siva Group has invested or operates through these entities.

Similarly, WinWind Power Energy Limited was floated as a subsidiary of WinWind Oy - the Finnish maker of wind turbine in which Sivasankaran had bought controlling stake.

Sources in the sector from beginning the firm failed to find its feet and never really had a major presence in the sector.

The company was launched in 2009 with much fanfare. At an industry event, WinWind had thrice the size of stall than Suzlon which was market leader.

Siva was splurging money on marketing like anything. No one purchased their wind turbines as they were sub-optimal in performance and also didn't suit the Indian wind condition.

No business came their way. It tried selling in 2011. Reached out to several players. But it was too small, technology was unsuitable and obviously had too much debt, a source in the industry said.

Corporate ministry documents show that the firm kept taking loans from public sector banks like State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank which gradually turned to bad loans.

Auditors of the company kept on raising alarm bell on its ability to function as “going concern” due to its liabilities to banks and poor financial status of WinWind Oy, the company’s Finnish parent.

It filed for bankruptcy in 2013 citing its inability to arrange for funding.

SBI in March had put the property which includes some land banks on sale due to an outstanding loan of Rs 38 crore.

Photograph: Kind courtesy, Business Standard

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Arindam Majumder & Shreya Jai in New Delhi
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