Coronavirus outbreak puts brakes on corporate fraud investigations

The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak appears to have come as a blessing in disguise for Rana Kapoor and others, who are being investigated for their alleged involvement in corporate fraud cases.

Sources say law enforcement agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation and Serious Fraud Investigation Office, decided to delay full-scale investigation in major matters for at least a month. 

Business Standard spoke to senior officials in these agencies. According to them, summons, questioning and related action have been postponed due to the lockdown.  “We have considered pleas for adjournment of summons that were being served to people in ongoing matters. In some cases, we have given fresh date, which is between April end and May first week,” said an official of a federal agency.

This may give relief to the accused and slow the investigation in crucial matters, especially cases that need immediate attention. This is because evidences might be distorted or get influenced, said an ex-official of a probe agency.

One such matter pertains to the YES Bank Rana Kapoor case, where the ED summoned a clutch of big borrowers, including Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani, Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra, Indiabulls Group founder Sameer Gehlaut and Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal. 

Some of these people have already been issued fresh summons and were given a new date for personal appearance. Those who got extension from the previous date can also be given exemption, said officials in the enforcement agency. Kapoor’s bail plea, which was listed on Thursday, has been adjourned by the sessions court. 

The Bombay High Court sought a feedback from J J Hospital to take a call on the bail plea of Kapoor. Other cases of ED which get impacted are – Chanda Kochhar’s quid pro quo, Edelweiss-Capstone forex violation matter, Jet Airways-Goyals’ shady firms, Air Asia probe where ED was to submit its report to the Delhi HC. 

They also include financial fraud at Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), chargesheet in former finance minister P Chidambaram’s matter and so on. 

Similarly, probes by CBI and SFIO, which are examining most of these matters from corruption and the company law violation perspective, have also been affected.  

Sources said the probe agencies are planning to move an application, seeking more time with respect to the filing of chargesheet in matters.

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