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U.K.-based firm, Indian directors held for bank fraud

The CBI has booked a U.K.-based company, Molinare Limited, and its Indian directors for allegedly cheating the London branch of Bank of India to the tune of ₹192.48 crore.

Apart from the company, which was into post production services in the entertainment and media industry, the FIR names its then managing director, Prabodh Kumar Tewari and his two sons, Anand and Abhishek, as accused persons. Anand was also a company director.

The three accused, who are residents of Maharani Bagh in Delhi, cheated the bank’s London branch of £18.51 million. The CBI had earlier registered seven FIRs linked to Mr. Tewari and his companies on allegations that they cheated several banks of about ₹2,600 crore. In 2012, the agency had also arrested him and Anand. They later came out on bail.

In the latest case, a probe into the holding pattern of Molinare Limited revealed that Century Communication Europe Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Century Communication Limited, had acquired 76% stake in Molinare Productions Limited, which held 100% stake in Molinare Holdings Limited, which in turn held 100% stake in Molinare Limited. All these companies were controlled and operated by Mr. Tewari and his sons, as alleged.

Molinare Limited was established in November 1973 as a privately owned post production studio in the U.K. The company approached the Bank of India’s London branch for credit facilities to expand, up-grade and replace its existing equipment and also for the takeover of the then existing working capital facilities from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The financing started from November 2008 onwards. However, the loan account turned non-performing asset in May, 2012. Through the liquidator, the bank recovered £1.78 million by sale of the charged assets. Proceedings before the Debt Recovery Tribunal are also under way since October 2016.

The bank lodged a complaint with the CBI on the basis of alleged irregularities detected during a forensic audit of the loan account, which revealed diversion and siphoning of funds on the basis of bogus or inflated invoices.

The previous CBI cases purportedly involve Mr. Tewari, his sons, Pixion Media Private Limited, Pearl Media Private Limited, Mahuaa Media Private Limited, Pixion Vision Private Limited, Pearl Studio Private Limited, Pearl Vision Private Limited and Century Communication Limited.

Based on these cases, the Enforcement Directorate has also attached properties worth over ₹250 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The ED earlier alleged that the funds were diverted in the account of group companies and used for acquiring assets in Mumbai, Chennai, Noida and Kolkata, buying gold, jewellery and investing in the stock market and mutual funds, besides withdrawing cash via shell companies. Outward foreign remittances were also made.

It was alleged that Century Communication, which had launched India’s first Bhojpuri channel Mahuaa TV in 2008, owed more than ₹916 crore, while Pearl Vision owed ₹340 crore. Also, there was an outstanding of ₹234 crore and ₹695.42 crore on the part of Mahuaa Media and Pixion Media when the CBI had launched its probe.

The Income-Tax Department had also earlier conducted a probe against some accused persons.

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