The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has begun an investigation under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) against Abir Lavasa, son of Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, and the company in which he is a director for alleged violation of foreign exchange laws. Sources said the ED is looking at the Rs 7.25 crore raised by Nourish Organic Foods Pvt Ltd in March 2019 from Saama Capital, a Mauritius-based India-focused early-stage investor.
Saama Capital has invested in a number of start-ups in India including Paytm, ChaiPoint, Vistaar (NBFC), Snapdeal and SKS Microfinance. Abir is the director of Nourish Organic Foods Pvt Ltd since November 14, 2017.
The agency sent summons to Abir Lavasa last week for appearance before the Investigating Officer of the case. He made an appearance last Friday and was given a week to furnish documents related to the funds raised. ED is learnt to have also sent a summons to the director of Saama Capital.
“There is a probe in connection with investments in the company where Lavasa is a director. The company was loss-making and yet received heavy investments at a premium. So we want to question (Abir) Lavasa about it,” an ED official said.
When contacted, Abir Lavasa said, “Yes, a summons was received last week. We are fully complying with the ongoing inquiry.” He declined to elaborate.
This comes just months after the Income Tax Department surveyed the books of accounts of Nourish Organic Foods Ltd. Abir Lavasa holds 10,000 shares in the company. The company had been served a notice by the IT department in August.
As first reported by The Indian Express on September 25, three members of the Lavasa family, including Ashok Lavasa’s wife Novel, are under the scanner of the Income Tax Department for alleged non-declaration of income and disproportionate assets. Abir Lavasa’s company (Nourish Organic) and Ashok Lavasa’s sister Shakuntala Lavasa, a pediatrician, have also received income tax notices. Hearings in the cases are in progress. That apart, on August 29 the government wrote to 11 PSUs to verify their records for any exercise of “undue influence” by Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa during his tenure in the Power Ministry from 2009 to 2013.
Incidentally, Ashok Lavasa, one of the three commissioners in the Election Commission, had on five occasions opposed the clean chit given by the Commission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP president Amit Shah on charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct during the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. Lavasa, who is second in seniority to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, had later recused himself from EC meetings on the MCC.
As reported by The Indian Express in September, RoC documents show Nourish Organic was promoted by Seema Jindal Jajodia, wife of Sandeep Jajodia, Chairman and Managing Director, Monnet Group, and daughter of the late O P Jindal. It earned a profit of Rs 16.86 lakh on total revenue of Rs 5.33 crore in 2017-18. The previous year, it reported a loss of Rs 24.4 lakh on revenues of Rs 3.4 crore.
The tax department concluded that the “effective management” of Nourish Organics vests with Abir, given that Seema Jajodia resigned two months after he became director in November 2017. Another director, Naresh Kumar, resigned the same day Abir joined.
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