October 6, 2021 3:22:52 am
A Mumbai-based jeweller, whose firm has defaulted on loan repayments to 19 Indian banks, set up a web of offshore firms with cross holdings to route funds along with a billionaire Saudi-businessman linked to a Mexican drug lord, reveal the Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express.
Records pertaining to Antrix Diamonds Exports Pvt Ltd, an Indian firm promoted by Ajay Gandhi, show that Singapore-based Andin Investments owned more than 20 per cent stake in Antrix Diamonds which owes over Rs 500 crore to public sector banks in India and has been declared a wilful defaulter.
Andin Investments is held by two offshore firms — Shertha Limited, Mauritius, and Zoom Investments & Securities Limited in Dubai. Both Shertha and Zoom are owned by two firms, Ace Investments in Dubai and Infinity Investments Securities Limited in the BVI.
Company records of Ace Investments reveal that the two shareholders’ directors of the company are Gandhi and Saeed Khalifa Mohammed Al Fuqaei.
Fuaqei is the owner of Dubai-based Shurra Group that provides business set-up services. Records show that in 2016, Phoenix Finance Group Ltd, a BVI company tied to indicted Mexican drug lord Hassein Eduardo Figueroa Gómez, transferred its five subsidiaries to Fuaqei.
Gómez and his father, Ezio Benjamin Figueroa Vasquez, were indicted by a US federal court in Virginia in 2011 for conspiracy to launder money connected to drug trafficking.
Emails to Ajay Gandhi and Fuqaei of Shuraa Group did not elicit any response.
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According to the share purchase agreement of Andin Investments, in the financial year 2010-11, the company bought 9980 shares of Antrix Diamonds for Rs 9.1 crore from Sevantilal Fakirchand & Co Pvt Ltd in two different transactions.
Subsequently, it increased its stake to own more than 20 per cent in Antrix Diamonds. To do this, Andin, promoted by Gandhi, according to records, borrowed up to $3.10 million from Shertha and Zoom, also promoted by Gandhi.
According to records, Shertha transferred its stake in Andin to Zoom Investments in 2015. The same year, Indian banks declared Antrix Diamonds a wilful defaulter after it defaulted on loan repayments of over Rs 450 crore.
Incidentally, the Pandora Papers records show in May 2016, Andin sold its stake in Antrix Diamonds valued at $3.10 million to Zoom Investments controlled by Gandhi and Fuaqei’s Ace Investment.
This was done to settle the loans given by Zoom to Andin. Following this transaction, Zoom Investments became the largest shareholder of Antrix Diamond that had a book value of $4.6 million as of 2012.
In 2017, Antrix Diamonds filed for bankruptcy in India. The company and its promoter Gandhi are being investigated by the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai police for allegedly defaulting on payments to its vendors. Gandhi was arrested by the EOW in September 2020.
Antrix Diamonds is currently in liquidation. According to a public announcement issued by the lenders of Antrix Diamond in June, the lenders have been trying to auction outstanding trade receivables of Antrix Diamonds of Rs 537 crore without any success even as the reserve price of the auction at Rs 4.83 crore is less than one per cent of the money due to the banks by Antrix Diamonds.
Gandhi’s US firm Anaya Gems Inc has also been pulled up by the US government for allegedly evading Customs duty on jewellery imported to the US. According to the Department of Justice in August 2020, Anaya Gems agreed to pay $415,000 for defrauding the US by falsely under-reporting jewellery imports from Hong Kong and Thailand.
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