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ED arrests two accused in M.P. e-tender scam

The Enforcement Directorate has arrested the promoter of Mantena Constructions Limited and his associate in connection with the e-tender scam in Madhya Pradesh.

The accused have been identified as Srinivas Raju Mantena, the company's founder and chairman, and Aditya Tripathi of Arni Infra.

It is alleged that a large number of infrastructure companies, mostly based in Hyderabad, conspired with senior government officials and IT service providers of the M.P. State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (MPSEDC) to tamper with e-tenders.

“The accused were produced before a special court, which sent them to judicial custody till February 3. We will seek their custody for questioning,” said an agency official.

The ED probe was based on an FIR registered by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Bhopal Police on April 10, 2019, in which Max Mantena Micro JV, GVPR Engineers Limited and others have been named as the main beneficiaries. According to the FIR, the M.P. e-procurement portal was managed by the MPSEDC, Antares Systems Limited (Bengaluru), and Tata Consultancy Services.

“They were given a contract to maintain and operate the portal for five years. The EOW-Bhopal has already filed a preliminary charge sheet and it has been established from IP access logs that Osmo IT Solutions Private Limited of Vinay Choudhary and Varun Chathurvedi misused the login credentials provided by Antares to gain illegal access and tampered with e-tenders,” said the agency.

The accused changed bid values of certain companies to ensure that they got the contract. “In return, they took illegal gratification. Max Mantena JV illegally won tender No.10030 worth ₹1,030 crore in this fashion. A large number of other tenders are also under scrutiny on the suspicion that they were clinched using the same modus operandi,” the official said.

The ED had earlier carried out searches in Hyderabad, Bhopal and Bengaluru on premises linked to Mantena Constructions, Max Infra, GVPR Engineers, Arni Infra, Osmo IT Solutions, Antares and others.

Statements of various stakeholders have been recorded, said the agency. It alleged that Mantena group had seen a big spurt in successful bids in the last few years, either directly or in association with other Hyderabad-based companies. Its chairman, Mr. Mantena, allegedly played a crucial role in the scam. In connivance with his friend Aditya Tripathi, he set up a front entity, Arni Infra, in Bhopal and used it to route funds for hawala activities. Both the accused admitted that Mantena Constructions gave sub-contracts of earth works worth about ₹93 crore to Mr. Tripathi, the agency said.

As alleged, Arni Infra was used to book fictitious work orders, generate cash and pay bribes for tampering with the e-tenders. They also bribed senior government functionaries. A fund trail probe detected unexplained financial transactions between Mantena and its front entity with the accused directors of Osmo IT Solutions, who are already in the EOW’s custody, the ED said.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 5:31:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ed-arrests-two-accused-in-mp-e-tender-scam/article33621688.ece

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