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Probe into Skill Development Corp scam at critical stage: CID tells Andhra Pradesh High Court

The funds released by the government were allegedly diverted by raising fake/forged invoices through various shell companies of the accused.

Published: 05th January 2022 09:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th January 2022 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

Scam

For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

By Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA: The Crime Investigation Department (CID), in its counter filed before the High Court with respect to the bail petitions filed by some of the accused in the alleged Rs 241 crore AP State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) scam, has reportedly submitted that a few government officials and private persons hatched a criminal conspiracy and committed criminal breach of trust to misappropriate government funds and convert the same for their own use.

The funds released by the government were allegedly diverted by raising fake/forged invoices through various shell companies of the accused. The CID also reportedly informed the court that incriminating documents at Secretariat and APSSDC office have disappeared and claimed that the hand of the accused was behind it.

The CID registered a case based on a complaint filed by APSSDC chairman K Ajay Reddy in September 2021 and found the alleged involvement of Ghanta Subba Rao, the then special secretary to government and MD & CEO of APSSDC, K Lakshminarayana, the then director of APSSDC and 24 others and named them as accused.

Incriminating documents at Secretariat, APSSDC office disappeared: CID

In its counter, the CID is understood to have explained the history beginning with the State government according permission to the APSSDC on June 30, 2015 to enter into an MoU with Siemens Industry Software (India) Private Limited (SISW), New Delhi, an entity of SIEMENS and DesignTech, Pune for setting up Skill Development Centers (Clusters). 

It was decided to establish six clusters each comprising One Center of Excellence (COE) and six Technical Skill Development Centers (TSDCs) in select educational institutions. The cost of each cluster was pegged at Rs 546 crore. The total cost of the project was around Rs 3,281 crore of which SIEMENS and DesignTech had to contribute 90% as grant-in-aid and the remaining 10% had to be contributed by the State Government which comes to around Rs 370 crore. 

The investigating agency reportedly found that the APSSDC had entered the agreement without mentioning the percentage of grant-in-aid by SIEMENS and DesignTech. The agreement was signed by Ghanta Subbarao on behalf of APSSDC and Soumyadri Shekhar Bose alias Suman Bose, former MD of SISW, and Vikas Vinayak Khanvelkar, MD of DesignTech. 

The APSSDC released Rs 371 crore to DesignTech in advance even though the other side provided neither services nor began any work and even before identifying the educational institutions. 

Interestingly, the Finance Department reportedly raised objections at this stage but the funds were released any how under a false claim that the grant-in-aid/kind will expire if the money was not released.

As per the agreement, DesignTech was to act as Proposer, Implementer and System Integrator for the overall project in collaboration with SISW and set up the clusters. Another lapse reportedly detected by the CID was that not a single review meeting was conducted by the State Level Monitoring Committee and Local Boards of Governance as well as by another monitoring committee constituted by the government to supervise the project. The CID sleuths reportedly found that DesignTech entered into a sub-contract with PVSP IT Skills Pvt Ltd. (later changed to M/s Skillar Enterprise India Pvt Ltd), which was incorporated just a month after the MoU between the APSSDC and SIEMENS was inked. 

The firm was given purchase order to the tune of Rs 241 crore for supply of material even though it did not have any prior experience. Skillar, in turn, issued purchase orders to Allied Computers International (Asia) Ltd, which was declared a shell company by the Central Agencies. It was found to be a defunct company and was used only to issue bogus invoices. Similar purchase orders were allegedly issued to other shell companies like M/s. Patrick Info Services Pvt Ltd, IT Smith Solutions Pvt Ltd, In web Services Pvt Ltd. 

The shell companies reportedly issued fake invoices and routed back the amount to Skillar and DesignTech through their shell companies after deducting commission.

The Siemens Global Team is understood to have conducted an internal investigation and concluded that Soumyadri Shekhar Bose in collusion with Vikas Vinayak Khanvelkar, MD of DesignTech and his project team members had used the invoices issued by the shell companies for diversion of APSSDC funds. Siemens appears to have retrieved the digital data (WhatsApp chat/email correspondence) deleted by Soumyadri Shekhar Bose and his team members from their mobiles and laptops. 

On Tuesday, the bail applications of Soumyadri Shekhar Bose and other accused Mukul Chandra, former employee of PVSP IT Skills Project, came up for hearing in the High Court.

The court reserved its orders after hearing arguments of the accused and the prosecution. Appearing for the government, additional advocate general Jasti Nagabhushan informed the court that investigation is at a crucial stage and said the investigating agency has already gathered critical information. He handed over the secret documents related to the investigation to the court.

On the other hand, B Adinarayana Rao, the counsel of Soumyadri Shekhar, said his client had nothing to do with the irregularities in APSSDC.

‘Deal signed sans mention of percentage grant-in-aid’

The investigating agency reportedly found that the APSSDC had entered the agreement without mentioning the percentage of grant-in-aid by SIEMENS and DesignTech. The agreement was signed by Ghanta Subbarao on behalf of APSSDC and Soumyadri Shekhar Bose, former MD of SISW, and Vikas Vinayak Khanvelkar, MD of DesignTech 



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