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Land may be the root cause of Satyam scam

Price Waterhouse auditor Talluri Srinivas (bespectacled), seated in the back of the vehicle, being taken to the magistrate’s residence in Hyderabad on Saturday.

Price Waterhouse auditor Talluri Srinivas (bespectacled), seated in the back of the vehicle, being taken to the magistrate’s residence in Hyderabad on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Nagara Gopal

S. Nagesh Kumar

HYDERABAD: The numerous trails investigating agencies are following are invariably leading to real estate deals swung by the promoters of Satyam Computer over the years.

This picture emerges by piecing together information from documents and disclosures in the court by prosecutors about the outcome of B. Ramalinga Raju’s interrogation by the Crime Investigation Department (CID). These have highlighted Mr. Raju’s vast investments in land purchases but how he found the money for these transactions may be central to the whole scam.

Most of these deals relate to land in and around Hyderabad where real estate witnessed a boom, in step with developments like construction of an international airport, spurt in software companies and the pressure for land within. It now transpires, according to the CID, Raju purchased land in places outside the State too.

CID’s interrogation, Senior Assistant Public Prosecutor K. Ajay Kumar informed the court, helped detect 400 benami land transactions involving the former Satyam chairman. Separately, the Inspector-General of Stamps & Registration said his office had so far traced 341 land transactions and was verifying whether the person involved was the former Satyam chief. All this explains the huge volume of land-related documents seized during searches at Mr. Raju’s residence.

A document found by the Registrar of Companies throws more light on these aspects. It revealed a flow of Rs. 1,230 crore from 36 agricultural firms into Satyam from November 2006 to October 2008. Mr. Raju circulated this document exclusively to Satyam’s Directors on December 16, along with his confessional statement. He was trying to drive home his point that he had arranged the money (not reflected in the books) to keep the operations afloat. The names of all these companies had suffixes like “Farms,” “Greenfields, “Greenlands” or “Agro farms.”

Yet another facet of Mr. Raju’s inclination to float such institutions came to light through web sites of stock exchanges. The IL&FS Trust informed the stock exchanges that it had sold 2.45 crore shares between December 23, 2008 and January 5, 2009. Nearly half of the stocks were in the name of two companies — Bangar Agro and Harangi Agro Farms Pvt. Ltd — owned by Mr. Raju’s close relatives.

Besides, promoters of Maytas Infra and Maytas Properties, the two companies that Satyam Board wanted to buy for U.S. $ 1.6 billion, had floated or invested in 240 companies, all in the area of real estate, investigations show.

All these developments appear to be in line with Mr. Raju’s thinking which he had revealed to investors — he wanted to divide his empire equally between information technology and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, investigators are pursuing a new angle — Mr. Raju’s links with Akula Rajaiah, a teacher-turned-realtor. Mr. Rajaiah is now a member of the Nalgonda District Congress Committee. His name figures in the sub-registrars’ records in several pieces of land purchased by the front companies — as the holder of the general power of attorney who executed the sale deeds.

CPI State secretary K. Narayana alleged that Mr. Rajaiah owned at least 7,300 acres in Rangareddy and Nalgonda districts. On his petition, the State Human Rights Commission issued notices to the Collectors and the District Registrars of these two districts in 2006 to submit reports of the vast tracts of land owned by Mr. Rajaiah. Mr. Narayana says he does not know the fate of his two-year-old petition.

Mr. Rajaiah’s name frequently figured in the media over land-related controversies.

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