Adi B Dubash, known as the king of Indian stevedoring, is on the run ever since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chargesheeted him in a scam that caused Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) a loss of Rs 80 crore (Rs 800 million).
Dubash, chairman of Ardeshir B Cursetjee Dubash Group (ABC Dubash), is accused of entering into a contract with FACT for transporting liquefied ammonia gas (LAG) to the company's Udyogamandal plant near Kochi at an exorbitant rate.
The CBI court in Kochi will soon initiate further proceedings against 10 former executives of FACT, including R Sundaresh Shenoy, then executive director (marketing) who was dismissed from service in December last year.
All the 10 executives have got bail from the Kerala High Court since they were arrested by the agency on September 28. Abraham Thomas, former chairman and managing director, who was also an accused in the case, died recently.
Repeated efforts to contact Dubash or the general manager of the group, John Gomes, elicited no response. ABC is one of India's oldest maritime groups offering services like stevedoring, tug & barge operation, inland water transport and manning.
The main clients of the group include Mumbai Port Trust, IFFCO, ONGC, and Indian Oil. Industry players said Dubash had considerable political influence but finds himself friendless after the scam surfaced.
FACT had entered into a contract with ABC for transporting liquefied ammonia stored at Willington Island in Kochi to the FACT plant at Udyogamandal in barges.
The contract was for a period extending from December 1989 to December 1999 at a rate of Rs 390 per tonne for the first 80,000 tonne and Rs 200 per tonne for quantities above it.
However, ABC later demanded that the rate be increased to Rs 1,620 per tonne. The CBI has alleged that a tender committee set up by the then CMD of FACT had entered into a criminal conspiracy with ABC and awarded it the contract at a rate of Rs 1,550 per tonne for 10 years from April 1998.
The chargesheet says that another company, Naftomar Shipping and Trading Company, was also involved in the conspiracy through submission of a tender that was much higher than what ABC had proposed. This was done to show that the rates quoted by ABC were reasonable. R S Likhari, Naftomar chief, has already applied for anticipatory bail.
The Kerala Inland Navigation Corporation, a Kerala government institution, and various other companies had submitted tenders at lower rates, but the tender committee rejected those quotations on flimsy grounds in order to award the contract to ABC and Sons.