HYDERABAD: The founder-chairman of a Hyderabad-based firm and his associate from Bhopal were arrested by Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials in connection with a Rs 3,000 crore money laundering fraud pertaining to the e-tender rigging scam in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday.
Srinivas Raju Mantena, chairman of Mantena Constructions, and his associate Aditya Tripathi of Arni Infra and a resident of Bhopal, were placed under arrest after they were booked under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), ED officials revealed, adding that the two have been sent to judicial custody till February 3 by a court.
According to ED, Mantena and Tripathi conspired with a large number of infrastructure companies, mostly based in Hyderabad, and a few senior government officials and IT service providers of MPSEDC (Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd) to tamper e-tenders and illegally obtain big contracts.
The investigating agency was acting on the basis of an FIR filed by Bhopal police against Hyderabad-based Max Mantena Micro JV and GVPR Engineers Limited in April, 2019.
As per the FIR, the Madhya Pradesh e-Procurement Portal is managed by MPSEDC and Antares Systems Limited, Bengaluru, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
“They were given a five-year contract for maintenance and operation of the portal. According to the FIR, it has been established from the IP access logs that Osmo IT Solutions Pvt Limited of Vinay Choudhary and Varun Chathurvedi had misused the login credentials provided by Antares and had illegally tampered the e-tenders and changed the bid values of certain companies to make them the lowest bidder,” the ED said.
“In return, they took gratification from the bidding companies and Max Mantena JV had illegally won a tender worth Rs 1,030 crore,” officials said, adding that there are a large number of other tenders that are also under scrutiny and are suspected to have been won using a similar modus operandi.
ED’s searches revealed that Mantena group has had a surge in successful bids in the last few years either directly or in association with other Hyderabad-based companies. The sleuths had raided more than 20 premises of the accused and others linked to the case in Hyderabad, Bhopal and Bengaluru this month and seized some digital devices and recorded statements of some people.
"Mantena has played a crucial role in the entire scam. With the assistance of his friend Tripathi he set up a front entity Arni Infra in Bhopal and used it to route funds for hawala activities. Both have admitted that Mantena Constructions have given sub-contracts of earth works worth around Rs 93 crore to Tripathi" added the officials.
Arni Infra was created to book fictitious work orders, generate cash and to pay bribes to senior government officials and for tampering with e-tenders, they said.
The office of Arni Infra is located in a new large building, but is mostly empty and none of the employees were aware of any real ground level works and were serving on paltry salaries.
"Fund-trail has shown unexplained financial transactions between Mantena Constructions and Arni Infra with the accused directors of Osmo IT Solutions, who are already in the custody of Economic Offences Wing (EOW)," the officials said.