Not associated with TDâ€™s skill dev. project: Siemens
Vijayawada: In a major embarrassment to the principal opposition Telugu Desam, multinational industrial giant Siemens informed the state government that it was never associated with the controversial skill development project launched with great fanfare by then chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh who was the IT minister in the previous regime.
The Crime Investigation Department (CID) which has already been probing into the financial irregularities in implementing the project is said to have traced the hawala route through which at least â‚¹240 crore was allegedly siphoned off.
According to official sources, Arja Srikanth, a senior railway official who was handling the project on deputation to the state, is likely to face serious action in the next few days along with other key people who the CID found to have been involved in the hawala transactions.
The TD government announced that Siemens had agreed to provide 90 per cent of the â‚¹3,300-crore project as grant-in-aid and released â‚¹370 crore (including taxes) towards the 10 per cent contribution from the state. However, while issuing the GO for release of the state’s contribution, the Naidu government, it is alleged, deliberately avoided mentioning the grant-in-aid of Siemens.
Sources said the CID, as part of the investigation, wrote to Siemens which sent its representatives to convey that it was never associated with the project. It also informed the state that one of its top employees in the Indian subsidiary Suman Bose indulged in activities that were taken up without the knowledge of the parent company. The CID found that Bose and Vikas Kanvikar of Digital Tech, another private company involved in the project, diverted the funds released by the state government to shell companies like Elite Computers, Skiller India Pvt Ltd, Knowledge Podium, ETA Greens and Kedans Partner.
“Interestingly, the ACB received a detailed complaint from a whistleblower in 2016 about the project but officials responsible for the irregularities erased all traces including files,” sources pointed out.
Another interesting factor is that it was the Goods and Services Tax (GST) intelligence wing that first detected irregularities before the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government took up investigation. “The shell companies received funds along with GST but did not remit the same to the taxmen,” sources said adding that the funds were routed out through hawala channels.