New Delhi, June 14 () Former Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Secretary Ramesh Abhishek, who is facing probe for amassing disproportionate assets, has admitted to the Lokpal at having earned over Rs 2.7 crore as a professional consultancy fee in just 15 months since his retirement.
This amount is 119 times higher than his monthly salary as a government servant, which was Rs 2.26 lakh at the time of his retirement. The revelation came into light after he mentioned his post-retirement income in his affidavit to the Lokpal.
Based on a complaint filed with it against the former IAS officer for owning assets disproportionate to his known source of income, the Lokpal has already directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe the matter and submit the report.
The complaint said more than 16 entities, including Amway India Enterprises, Dharampal Satyapal Ltd, P&A Law Offices and Primus Partners Pvt Ltd, One97 Communications Ltd, PAGAC III Holding IV (HK) Ltd, Harsha Vardhana Singh, Atmanirbhar Digital India Foundation, Social and Political Research Foundation, IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative and Aakhya Media Services Pvt Ltd among others, were favoured by Abhishek during his tenure as the Secretary at DPIIT. He retired as the DPIIT Secretary in 2019.
In a clear case of quid pro quo, post his retirement, these companies now feature as his clients and contribute to his income of over Rs 2.7 crore in the financial years 2020-21 and 2022-23. Interestingly, two of the clients Lulu International Shopping Mall Pvt Ltd and PAGAC III Holding IV (HK) Limited featured in the notorious Panama Papers.
In its recent order directing the ED to probe the complaint, the Lokpal said: “In view of the above facts and circumstances, we cannot be a mute spectator to these allegations relating to corruption which should be dealt with strictly. More so when substantial parts of information furnished by the complainant have been admitted by the public servant (Ramesh Abhishek) in his affidavits. We, therefore, refer the matter to the ED along with all papers relating to this complaint.”
The Lokpal has directed the ED to probe into matters, including valuation of Abhishek’s lavish bungalow in Greater Kailash-II, New Delhi, and if there has been any conflict of interest in terms of remuneration received by Abhishek and his relatives.
Further, the Lokpal has also asked the ED to check whether the former bureaucrat was required to inform relevant authorities about the cost of redevelopment of his bungalow in Greater Kailash-II, New Delhi, and whether the appropriate authority was informed or not.
According to the complaint, the market value of the bungalow in Greater Kailash-II, New Delhi, which was bought by Abhishek for Rs 2.67 crore, is worth over Rs 8 crore and the balance amount was paid in cash.
The complaint points out the misuse of official position by the former IAS officer as Secretary, DPIIT and indulged in money laundering using his family members. In the garb of prompt ease of doing business, Make in India among others, he got his daughter Vaneesa Agrawal appointed as a consultant to several firms and charged heavy fees. He misused his position to influence the then SEBI Chairman U.K. Sinha and had his daughter appointed in the SEBI by creating a special vacancy, it alleged.
Being close to former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the complaint noted, Abhishek was promoted to the post of Forward Markets Commission (FMC) Chairman by Chidambaram and gave him five subsequent extensions on completion of the term. Abhishek’s holidays in foreign destinations are also under the cloud where he travelled business class with family, stayed in 5-star hotels and organised flash parties for local guests and businessmen. Suspiciously, the travel details of IAS officers, which should be recorded and available in public domain, are missing for Abhishek. They were removed and are now untraceable, said the complaint.
He also fluted the norms of being a public servant by openly using his clout for publicising and getting business and clients for his daughter Vaneesa Agrawal. He headed Start-up India and Make-in-India Projects and in the course of his work, the former IAS officer interacted with funders and start-up enterprises, such as Indian Angel Network, Startup India, Invest India, Fund of Funds, IAN Fund and many other funds. Abhishek accorded more than due importance to Indian Angel Network and invited its representatives for various discussions in public platforms, dinners and gatherings and ensured that its representatives are made part of various committees. In return, Indian Angel Network doled out bribes in the name of legal consultancy to his daughter, it added.
The complaint further claimed that the public servant hosted a three-day lavish wedding function of his daughter at Jaipur to which commodity brokers, traders, power brokers and businessmen were invited. Three big hotels were booked to accommodate wedding guests, raising clear doubt on the mismatch in his earnings and expenses.
Apart from Lokpal directing the ED to take all necessary action in accordance with law to probe him, the public servant also got another jolt when the Special MPID Court directed the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai Police to probe his involvement in the 5,600-crore NSEL payment default crisis.
A separate complaint against Abhishek also points out his dubious involvement in protecting the brokers despite their wrongdoings, giving wrongful advice to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) leading to abrupt closure of a running exchange and resulting in the crisis, ignoring the EOW-Mumbai’s report on wrongdoings of brokers and suggesting forced merger of two private entities to take the heat away from brokers.