Five months after allegations surfaced that businessman Abhishek Verma may have stashed away millions of dollars linked to a 2006 defence scandal in overseas banks, the Central Bureau of Investigation has finally moved to seek details on the case from a key witness in the United States.
Highly-placed sources told The Hindu that the CBI has assigned a Deputy Inspector-General of Police to get details on the transactions from New York resident C. Edmond Allen, who was once Mr. Verma's lawyer and business associate, about funds escrow account of a firm in New York.
In letters written to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) chiefs early this year, Mr. Allen alleged that Mr. Verma had parked $410 million in overseas banks. Mr. Allen, who handled Mr. Verma's funds from April 2000 to February 2004, refused to return the funds, citing the U.S. anti-corruption laws — sparking off litigation between them in New York.
The CBI did not respond to questions from The Hindu seeking an explanation for the prolonged delay in seeking this information. There is also no word on whether Mr. Verma has yet been questioned on the allegations.
In voluminous documents sent to the CBI and ED chiefs in January-February 2012, Mr. Allen, also a real estate consultant based in New York, alleged that Mr. Verma was involved in money laundering, illegal dealings with defence manufacturers, forgery and tax evasion. He also levelled charges against Mr. Verma that referred to bids to manipulate trade policy to benefit certain foreign defence firms. Mr. Allen claimed he had drawn Defence Minister A.K. Antony's attention to Mr. Verma's activities, which he alleges had national-security implications.
The CBI had, more than five years ago, charged Mr. Verma with receiving over Rs. 6 crore to bribe officials for details of upcoming defence deals. Its present probe is intended to see whether the contested funds in New York could be linked to his alleged work on behalf of international arms firms.
According to the documents, Mr. Allen formed Ganton Limited in the U.S. in 2005 to invest in India in the real estate and defence sectors. Ganton Limited later opened Ganton India, which employed Mr. Verma's Romanian friend Anca Neascu and Gili Golan, a friend with an Israeli passport.
The two men fell out in 2011, and Mr. Verma sent a letter to Mr. Allen asking him to return $ 410 million earlier deposited with him as per agreements of April 2000 and February 2004. A complaint filed by attorney Lynn Judell on behalf of Mr. Verma in the South District Court of New York, said Mr. Allen refused to return the money.