arrested, people, money, rigging racket

ED arrests 2 in MP e-tendering money laundering case

The Enforcement Directorate has arrested two people on money laundering charges in the alleged over Rs 3,000 crore e-tender rigging racket of Madhya Pradesh, the central agency said on Wednesday.
Srinivas Raju Mantena, founder and chairman of Mantena Constructions, and his associate Aditya Tripathi of Arni Infra and a resident of state capital Bhopal have been arrested under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), it said in a statement.
The two have been sent to judicial custody till February 3 by a court, it said.
“They are accused in the money laundering investigation into the e-tender scam in Madhya Pradesh.”
“In this case, large number of infrastructure companies, mostly based in Hyderabad, conspired with few senior government officials and IT service providers of MPSEDC (Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd) to tamper e-tenders and to illegally obtain large value contracts,” the ED claimed.
The money laundering case stems from an April, 2019 FIR filed by the state police economic offences wing (EOW) where Max Mantena, Micro JV Hyderabad, GVPR Engineers Limited Hyderabad among others were named as the “main” beneficiaries of the alleged scam.
This police case was filed when the Congress government under chief minister Kamal Nath was in power in the state.
The ED had also raided more than 20 premises of the accused and others linked to the case in Hyderabad, Bhopal and Bengaluru early this month and seized some digital devices and recorded the statements of some people.
The police FIR, the ED said, had stated that the state e-procurement portal is managed by MPSEDC and Antares Systems Limited of Bengaluru and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
“They are given a 5-year contract for the maintenance and operation of the said portal. EOW Bhopal has already filed a preliminary chargesheet and it has been established from the IP access logs that Osmo IT Solutions Pvt Limited of Vinay Choudhary and Varun Chaturvedi had misused the login credentials provided by Antares and had illegally accessed and tampered the e-tenders and changed the bid values of certain companies to make them L1 (lowest bidder).”
“In return they had taken illegal gratification from the bidding companies,” the ED alleged.
“Max Mantena JV Hyderabad had illegally won the tender no 10030 worth Rs 1,030 crore in this fashion,” it said.
The ED said there are “large number” of other tenders which are also under scrutiny and are “suspected” to have been won by using the same modus operandi.
The ED claimed that the “Mantena group has seen a big spurt in successful bids in last few years either directly or in association with other Hyderabad-based companies.”
“Investigation conducted so far revealed that the founder and chairman of the company S R Mantena played a crucial role in the entire scam.”
“With the assistance of his friend Aditya Tripathi he (Mantena) set up a front entity Arni Infra in Bhopal and used it to route funds for hawala activities,” the ED charged.
Both Mantena and Tripathi have “admitted” that Mantena Constructions have “given sub-contracts of earth works worth around Rs 93 crore to Tripathi,” the ED said.
It added that Arni Infra is “simply a front entity” which has been cleverly created by Tripathi at the instance of Mantena to book “fictitious” work orders, generate cash and to pay bribes for tampering with the e-tenders and also for bribing senior government functionaries.
The ED said it found that the “office of Arni Infra is located in a new and large building but it is mostly empty and none of the employees were aware of any real ground level work (done by the company) and were serving on paltry salaries.”
“Fund trail investigation has also yielded direct unexplained financial transactions between Mantena Constructions and its front entity Arni Infra with the accused directors of Osmo IT Solutions who are already in the custody of the EOW,” it said.