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The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu Bureau

Gujarat power utility made ‘excess payment’ of ₹3,900 crore to Adani: Congress

Gujarat Congress president Shaktisinh Gohil on Saturday accused the Gujarat government of favouring the Adani Group by making an “excess payment” of ₹3,900 crore to Adani Power between 2018 and 2023.

Mr. Gohil produced a letter written by the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL) to Adani Power, Mundra, in which the State power utility has stated that it made the excess payment and asked the power supplier for recovery.

In the letter, dated May 15, 2023, GUVNL said that Adani Power was not cooperating, and had failed to submit detailed invoices and supporting documents of coal procurement from Indonesia. It also suggests that the coal price at which Adani Power was procuring Indonesian coal was substantially higher than the actual market price of coal.

A Gujarat government spokesman denied that there was any scam, and said payments were ongoing, and would be adjusted.

‘Crony corruption’

“This is a classic case of cronyism of the BJP. For five years from October 2018 to March 2023, the GUVNL paid ₹13,802 crore as energy charges, out of which ₹3,900 crore was excess,” Mr Gohil told journalists in Delhi and Ahmedabad.

“It is categorically mentioned that the Adani Power was buying coal from a select few spot suppliers at premium price, while the actual market price was substantially lower,” Mr. Gohil said. He also asked why the auditors had not raised any query regarding the payments which were made without any supporting documents submitted by Adani Power regarding the fuel procurement.

“This cannot be done by the bureaucrats alone. This scam of making excess payment has been committed with blessings from the political bosses,” he said, asking how the GUVNL had suddenly realised in May 2023 that it had paid more than required.

“It is well known, and even GUVNL has suggested, that the Adani Power has not shown transparency in coal procurement and it buys coal from some shell companies that are directly or indirectly linked with the group’s sprawling network of shell entities which has been exposed in the Hindenburg report,” Mr. Gohil said.

‘Loot of public money’

“Taking into considering of the above and in view of the fact of excess payment has been received by Adani Power Mundra Ltd from GUVNL for energy invoices for period of October 2018 onwards, pending the final approval of base rate by the Government of Gujarat, the Adani Power is hereby requested to immediately refund the excess amount received towards energy charges,” says the letter signed by J.J. Gandhi, General Manager (Commercial), GUVNL.

Mr. Gohil asked why the State government had not ordered any probe by the Enforcement Directorate or the Central Bureau of Investigation, if the Adani Group had failed to submit genuine invoices and supporting documents regarding fuel procurement.

“This is a case of loot of public money by creating layers within layers to inflate the energy costs,” he said, adding that “this clearly amounts to money laundering”.

‘Out of context’

Responding to the Opposition party’s allegations, Gujarat government spokesman and Cabinet Minister Rushikesh Patel said that there was no “scam”, adding that the payments were an ongoing matter and would be adjusted as per the norms.

He admitted that the letter was genuine and was written by the GUVNL. “The GUVNL has written as a commercial communication between the two parties. There is no scam and the Congress party has quoted from it without context,” Mr. Patel said in a media briefing on Saturday evening.

However, the copy of the letter circulated by the Opposition party has raised questions about the functioning of the energy department in the State, where there have been allegations of non-transparency for several years.

Gujarat’s power utility procures power from the Adani, Tata, and Essar groups, and from other suppliers, as per the long-term Power Purchase Agreements inked with these private power firms.

Congress questions SEBI delay

In another matter related to the Adani group, the Congress said that the “inability” of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to reach a conclusive finding on allegations of round-tripping and money-laundering against the group is “deeply troubling”.

In a statement, Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh said that SEBI’s August 25 status report to the Supreme Court raises questions, and reiterated the party’s position that only a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe can effectively answer them.

“Of the 24 matters it has investigated relating to the Adani MegaScam, two still have interim status. One of the interim reports relates to the important question of whether Adani violated the Minimum Public Shareholding requirement under Rule 19A of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Rules. In simple terms, did Adani use opaque entities based in overseas tax havens to engage in the kind of round-tripping and money laundering that the PM has always claimed to oppose? SEBI has stated that the reason for delay is that information from external agencies and entities is still awaited,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Diluting regulations

The Congress leader said that the country is “paying a heavy price” for SEBI’s decision in 2018 to dilute, and in 2019 to delete, the reporting requirements relating to the ultimate beneficial (i.e. actual) ownership of foreign funds.

“No less than the Supreme Court’s Expert Committee pointed out that the reason SEBI has failed to identify beneficial ownership of overseas investors in Adani companies was that ‘the securities market regulator suspects wrongdoing’ but is ‘drawing a blank worldwide’ due to its ‘piquant’ decision to remove these stipulations. Thus, giving free rein to opaque funds based in tax havens,” Mr. Ramesh said.

He claimed that the reintroduction of strict reporting rules following the SEBI board’s June 28 meeting represented a public admission of guilt by the regulatory body, even though the horse has already bolted from the stable.

“Final reports on these critical questions are awaited. Will SEBI do its fiduciary duty and identify the source of the ₹20,000 crore of benami overseas funds that have flowed into the Adani Group. The answer to how and why SEBI decided to dilute these rules, the prime beneficiary of which appears to be the Adani Group, can only be answered by a JPC,” Mr. Ramesh noted.

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