For meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is at the centre of an income-tax (I-T) investigation, it helped to have a “friend” in the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
While he shared text messages with former director A P Singh raising questions of propriety and conflict of interest — as first reported in The Indian Express — his daughter’s company secured contracts to organise parties for Singh and his successor and current CBI chief Ranjit Sinha.
An investigation by The Indian Express has revealed that SM Productions, owned by Moin Qureshi (10%) and his daughter, US national Sylvia Moin (90%), was first engaged by CBI for its in-house Diwali celebration in November 2012 towards the end of Singh’s tenure. Singh is now a Member of the Union Public Service Commission.
Subsequently, Singh’s successor, Ranjit Sinha, again hired Sylvia Moin’s firm to organise the CBI’s “At Home’’ function in April 2013. Both events were held at the residence of the CBI Director.
SM Productions is among the host of companies owned by Moin Qureshi under scrutiny for alleged tax evasion. According to records under the I-T scanner, a bill of Rs 33.5 lakh was raised for the “At Home’’ event under the head of S M Productions in May 2013.
Filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) show that S M Productions was incorporated only on October 21, 2013, almost a year after it got its first assignment from CBI.
While the corporate brochure of S M Productions lists CBI as one of its clients, Sylvia Moin, when contacted by The Indian Express, said that the event management for CBI’s “At Home” was done by SM Group (a proprietership, not a registered company), not S M Productions. S M Group, she said, was incorporated on January 2, 2012.
The Indian Express had reported on May 15, 2014 that following searches at his residence, the IT Department Investigation wing put under its scanner Blackberry Messenger (BBM) exchanges between Qureshi and A P Singh. These messages related to ongoing investigations by the agency. Singh had then told The Indian Express that Qureshi was his “friend” and the BBM messages are “innocuous” and “non-incriminatory”.
When asked why he chose Sylvia Moin’s company, Ranjit Sinha, Director CBI told The Indian Express, “The company was first engaged before I joined as Director. The CBI must have been happy with their performance and continued with them. It is not necessary for the CBI to go about tendering for everything. I don’t know the specifics, but I think we even deducted some money against their bill.”
Singh, contacted by The Indian Express confirmed admitted that the firm had been hired by the agency for the Diwali event at his residence. “Yes, we used the company once and probably it was for the Diwali party. But it was a contributory party and the Government was in no way involved. It is possible the company got further contracts from the CBI since they were considered cheapest and best.’’
In an emailed response, SM Productions said that “SM Group participated in a competitive bid to bag the event. S M Productions Pvt Ltd. is a company for Live Concerts and has not raised any bill to CBI. The bill raised for CBI day was from SM Group. CBI issued a cheque for Rs 12 lakh inclusive of service tax for CBI Day (At Home).”
Later, when asked about the terms of the “competitive bid,” she was unavailable for comment.
Incidentally, the CBI website which lists all “tender/auction” between November 2011 and June 2014 does not list any tenders called for event management.
Besides CBI, Qureshi’s daughter’s firm has handled various PSUs under the Ministry of Petroleum. It also handled the Doon School’s 1988 batch’s silver jubilee reunion in October 2013. Qureshi was the president of Doon School Old Boys Association till May 2014, a post he relinquished following the I-T probe.
The shop had stored over 20 drums of kerosene that fuelled the blaze and it quickly spread through the entire building.