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Adani’s Alleged Irregularities on Import of Coal Again Under the Scanner

On the basis of court filings, Reuters has reported that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence wants to break the deadlock, which it claims the Adani Group has managed to impose on the sharing of documents from Singapore over its coal imports through lower court orders. The Adani Group denies all charges.

New Delhi: Reuters has cited court papers to report that Adani Enterprises and its subsidiaries “have successfully mounted repeated legal challenges in India and Singapore to block the documents’ release”, referring to documents which would detail the true nature and value of Adani’s coal imports to India.

The Adani Group has been under the scanner and then again in sharp focus since the Hindenburg Research report in January referred to alleged irregularities in coal imports. A detailed investigation by the London-based Financial Times, “for alleged overvaluation of coal imports” last month, connected alleged over-valuation of coal imports to inflated fuel prices and increased rates for electricity consumers may have paid.

In an October 9 legal filing, which Reuters has reported on Friday (November 17), the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, India’s revenue intelligence agency, has “asked India’s Supreme Court to quash a previous lower court order that allowed Adani to block authorities from collecting evidence from Singapore.” DRI says “the company [has] thwarted [the move to share documents with authorities] for years, as per the news agency.

Adani has denied wrongdoing, and told Reuters it had “fully cooperated” with the authorities by providing details and documents sought more than four years ago and that “no deficiency or objection” was communicated by investigators thereafter.

Reuters says that ahead of India’s 2024 election, political opponents have increased pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, accusing it of favouritism toward Adani in government decisions.

“Modi and Adani, who both hail from Gujarat, have denied impropriety,” writes Reuters.

Also read: The Undeniable Rise of Oligarchic Capitalism in Modi’s India

Over-invoicing Imports = Consumers Overpaying for Electricity?

The Financial Times reported last month, according to data obtained from customs records, that the Adani Group, “appears to have imported billions of dollars of coal at prices well above market value.”

It said that the “data supports longstanding allegations that Adani, the country’s largest private coal importer, has been inflating fuel costs and led millions of Indian consumers and businesses to overpay for electricity.”

The London-based broadsheet examined data between 2019 and 2021, and concluded that “Adani used offshore intermediaries in Taiwan, Dubai and Singapore to import $5 billion-worth of coal at prices that were at times more than double the market price.” It cited journeys of coal, during which the price of coal, “unaccountably increased by over $70 million.”

The news report again drew attention to the coal imports over-pricing allegations which had been dogging the Adanis despite denials. The Opposition Congress party alleged that the Adani group “may be behind the biggest scam modern India has seen.” They cited the fresh revelations, reported The Hindu, to indicate that “more than Rs 12,000 crore may have been siphoned out of the country in two years.”

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh claimed that this was “not a metaphorical loot but literally theft” from the pockets of crores of Indians. He said the latest revelations in the Financial Times, that examined 30 Adani coal shipments between 2019 and 2021 amounting to 3.1 million tonnes, found a 52% profit even on a low margin business like coal trading.

Gujarat Police ‘summons’ journalists reporting on Adani’s alleged coal irregularities

The BJP has consistently denied charges that there is any personal friendship or connection between Prime Minister Modi and his government’s policies that have allowed Adani to grow at the fastest pace any conglomerate has in recent times and managed to control large infrastructure projects in India. But Gujarat police’s enthusiasm in trying to ‘summon’ journalists who are reporting on allegations of impropriety in how the Adani Group functions have only added grist to the mill.

It took the Supreme Court of India on Friday (November 10) to grant “interim protection from coercive action to two journalists from the Financial Times, Benjamin Nicholas Brooke Parkin and Chloe Nina Cornish, who have been summoned by the Gujarat Police in relation to an article published in August against the Adani group.”

Earlier, the Supreme Court had to grant interim protection to two other journalists Ravi Nair and Anand Mangnale in connection with an investigation by them on the Adani-Hindenburg row.

The case of an Opposition Member of Parliament, Mahua Moitra, has already drawn attention to how Parliamentary procedures, rules and propriety may have been stretched and often violated in the functioning of the Ethics Committee looking into the matter of how she asked questions in Parliament. Moitra and her colleagues across Opposition parties in the Committee say she is being targeted as she raises uncomfortable questions about India’s biggest infrastructure conglomerate, the Adani Group, on the floor of the House which becomes hard to shut down.

About 120 eminent citizens have also linked the contentious recommendation of expulsion of Mahua Moitra from the Lok Sabha as being “against public interest.” They also said that the Modi government’s response to the allegations against the Adani Group shows a nexus between “the political executive and big businesses”.

India is among the top ten countries in crony capitalist rankings, as per The Economist. The World Press Freedom Index has placed India at rank 161 out of 180 countries in May, 2023.