3 Of Top 5 Donors Who Bought Electoral Bonds Under ED, I-T Scanner

New Delhi: Three of the top five firms, which made contributions to political parties through electoral bond, between 2019 and 2024, are facing Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax probes.

These include lottery company Future Gaming, infrastructure firm Megha Engineering and mining giant Vedanta.

Future Gaming and Hotels Pvt Ltd, a lottery company run by Santiago Martin, had bought electoral bonds worth Rs 1300 crore between 2019-2024. The ED, in early 2019, began a money laundering probe against the company and attached assets worth over Rs 250 crore by July that year. On April 2, 2022, the ED attached movable assets worth Rs 409.92 crore in the case.

On April 7, 2022, Future Gaming bought Rs 100 crore in electoral bonds.

The ED initiated an investigation under the provisions of PMLA against Santiago Martin and his company on the basis of a charge sheet filed by Central Bureau of investigation (CBI). According to ED, Martin and others entered into a criminal conspiracy to violate the provisions of Lottery Regulation Act, 1998 and obtain wrongful gain by cheating the Sikkim Government.

“Martin and his associates made illegal gain to the extent of Rs 910.3 crores on account of inflating the prize winning tickets claim for the period from 01.04.2009 to 31.08.2010,” the ED said in a statement on July 22, 2019.

The company bought its first tranche of electoral bonds on October 21, 2020.

Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), the second largest donor bought bonds worth Rs 1000 crore between 2019 and 2024. Run by Krishna Reddy, the company is involved in marquee projects of the Telangana government such as the Kaleswaram Dam project. It is also building the Zojila tunnel and the Polavaram dam.

In October 2019, the Income Tax department raided the offices of the company, followed by an ED probe. Incidentally, on April 12 that year, MEIL had purchased poll bonds worth Rs 50 crore.

Last year, the government rejected a USD 1-billion investment proposal of Chinese electric car maker BYD, and its Hyderabad-based partner MEIL to set up an electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

Vedanta Group, backed by industrialist Anil Aggarwal, is the fifth largest donor having purchased bonds worth Rs 376 crore with the first tranche being purchased in April 2019.

In mid-2018, ED claimed that it had evidence related to Vedanta Group’s alleged involvement in the bribe-for-visa case where certain Chinese nationals were given visas by alleged bending of rules.

A reference sent by ED to CBI translated into a case of corruption in 2022 following which the ED began a money laundering probe. On April 16, 2019, Vedanta Ltd purchased bonds worth over Rs 39 crore.

Over the next four years, barring the pandemic year of 2020, till November 2023, it bought bonds worth Rs 337 crore more taking the cumulative value of bonds bought by the company to over Rs 376 crore.

Jindal Steel and Power is also among the top 15 donors with the company having donated Rs 123 crore through the electoral bonds between 2019 and 2024. While the company faced probes by central agencies in the coal blocks allocation case, the ED raided the premises of the company and its promoter Navin Jindal in connection with a fresh case of forex violation in April 2022.

The company made its first tranche of purchases on October 7, 2022.

Apart from this, Rithwik Projects Pvt Ltd, owned by politician CM Ramesh, has purchased bonds to the tune of Rs 45 crore during this period. In October 2018, the Income Tax department raided premises associated with the company and Ramesh, who was then a Telugu Desam Party MP. The IT department alleged that the company had siphoned off Rs 100 crore. Months later, Ramesh joined the Bharatiya Janta Party.

Aurobindo Pharma, which is involved in the Delhi liquor case, has also made donations of Rs 49 crore between 2019-2014. The ED had arrested the company’s director P Sarath Reddy in November 2022 in the case. While the company made donations of about Rs 2.5 crore in 2021, majority of its electoral bond purchases were made in 2022 and 2023.

Rashmi Cement, which has donated Rs 64 crore to political parties, has been under the ED scanner since 2022. On July 13, 2022, the central agency carried out searches at three places in West Bengal, in the case of “Rashmi Group of Companies” related to the loss of Rs 73.40 crore to public exchequer “by deliberately mis-declaring the facts and mis-utilising the dual freight policy of the Indian Railways to avail the wrongful benefits of lower tariff of freight for transportation of iron ore”.

Shirdi Sai Electricals, which purchased bonds worth Rs 40 crore in January this year, was raided by the IT department last year.

The State Bank of India has issued electoral bonds worth Rs 16,518 crore in 30 tranches since the inception of the scheme in 2018.

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