‘Clear the air on De La Rue connection’

Chandy asks why the blacklisted British company re-emerged around the time of demonetisation

Published - January 01, 2017 01:36 am IST - Kochi:

Raising questions:  Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at a press conference in Kochi on Saturday.

Raising questions: Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at a press conference in Kochi on Saturday.

Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday raised questions on the re-emergence of a blacklisted British company, a currency printing major, in India around the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the demonetisation drive.

Thomas de la Rue, one of the three foreign firms contracted by the Reserve Bank of India in 1997-98 to print 360 crore currency notes of ₹ 500 and ₹ 100 denominations with an aggregate value of ₹ 1 lakh crore, was reportedly blacklisted by the Union Home Ministry in 2011, he told the media. He cited a set of documents, including news reports.

In a report in 2012-13, the Public Undertakings Committee of Parliament — headed by Congress’ Jagadambika Pal, who has since joined the Bharatiya Janata Party — had expressed serious reservations about the RBI’s unprecedented move in 1997-98 to outsource currency printing to foreign firms. It had maintained that it risked currency falling in the hands of “unscrupulous elements like terrorists, extremists and other economic offenders …”

“There is no mention of De La Rue’s activities in India in its annual reports of years 2013, 2014 and 2015. But its annual report of 2016 clearly mentions the India operations of De La Rue Cash Processing Solutions India Pvt. Ltd. and De La Rue India Pvt Ltd. In a recent interview to a journal, Martin Sutherland, chief executive of De La Rue, says the company has set up an office in Delhi and its senior management is working closely with the Union Department for Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). He further speaks about its potential role in the ‘Make In India’ initiative. There is evidence to show that the company’s share value rose by 33.33 per cent after April 11, 2016,” Mr. Chandy said.

He called into question the company’s involvement as one of the Platinum Partners in the India-U.K. Tech Summit held in Delhi in November.

In the wake of news reports suggesting that the RBI had selected a few foreign firms, including De La Rue, to print plastic currency notes of ₹ 10 denomination to bring liquidity to the market, Union Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal informed Parliament on December 9 that plastic currency printing had begun at a foreign firm.

“I would urge the Government of India to explain the nature of its close partnership with a company earlier blacklisted by the Union Home Ministry. Has the government taken any step to get plastic money printed by a foreign company, sidestepping the PUC’s strong recommendation against the practice? If the government denies having any ties with the blacklisted firm, would it launch an investigation into the firm’s full-scale resurgence in India,” Mr. Chandy asked.

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