A U.S. grand jury this week handed down an indictment to six persons including K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao (65), MP and a close adviser to the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, in a $18.5-million titanium mining scam.
In its indictment given in the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois, the grand jury said the allegations related to charges of international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of State and Central government officials to allow the mining of titanium minerals, a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Those facing charges include Ukrainian industrialist Dmitry Firtash (48); Andras Knopp (75), a Hungarian businessman; Suren Gevorgyan (40) of Ukraine; Gajendra Lal (50), an Indian national and permanent resident of the U.S. and Periyasamy Sunderalingam, aka “Sunder,” (60), of Sri Lanka.
The U.S. prosecutors noted that the defendants had, beginning in 2006, “allegedly conspired to pay at least $18.5 million in bribes to secure licences to mine minerals” in A.P., a venture that was expected to net more than $500 million annually from the sale of titanium products, including sales to a company referred to as “Company A”, headquartered in Chicago.
The court documents suggested that the defendants, under the cover of multiple shadowy companies, had, on multiple occasions, met Indian officials, including Chief Minister Reddy, “to discuss the project and its progress, and authorised payment of at least $18.5 million in bribes to both State and Central government officials in India to secure the approval of licences for the project.”
In February 2007, the indictment notes, ‘Company A’ entered into an agreement via two foreign companies, Austrian Ostchem Holding, and Swiss Bothli Trade, to ensure that the latter would be able to supply 5 million to 12 million pounds of titanium sponge to ‘Company A’ on an annual basis.
It was observed that Sunderalingam met Rao “to determine the total amount of bribes and advised others on the results of the meeting, and he identified various foreign bank accounts held in the names of nominees outside India that could be used to funnel bribes to Rao.”
Rao is accused of having solicited bribes for himself and others in return for approving licences for the project and of warning other defendants concerning the threat of a possible law enforcement probe of the project.