Mumbai, January 16, 2017

Senior officials said that six out of 23 auditors have been assigned the task of specifically probing digital transactions.

The Maharashtra government has roped in financial experts to help crack economic offences. The state has set up a panel comprising 23 financial auditors who would work with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) on cases. Top government sources said that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s decision to involve these experts comes in the wake of delays in investigations in some high-profile cases. Fadnavis also holds the state’s home portfolio.

Senior officials said that six out of 23 auditors have been assigned the task of specifically probing digital transactions.

The private agencies roped in include Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), Deloitte and KPMG,who are amongst the top four largest accounting and auditing firms in the country. Helik Advisory, which is headed by the former Forensic

Sciences Director Rukmani Krishnamurthy, is also among the six companies mandated to probe digital transactions. PwC and KPMG have been empanelled for digital transactions too.

Officials said that the pace of the probe in the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) case, cheating case against industrialist Yash Birla and his firm Birla Power Solutions Pvt Ltd and a slew of cases registered against prominent builders including Pujit Aggarwal have been dragging with the agency not been able to hire the services of the forensic auditors.

The other auditing firms enrolled include Sarath & Associates, Shinde & Associates for financial auditing.

With the panel now in place, the EOW has to write to the pool of auditors with its requirements and the companies will revert with their solutions and the service charges. The State government will be the final deciding authority on the company whose services the city police could hire. “As per the requirement the EOW would write to the companies and then the one that suits our bill would be hired,” an official from the State Home Department said.

Explaining the need of having financial auditors on board, the official elaborated, “EOW has to rely on forensic evidence to stand its case in the court of law and this can be possible only if the investigators are able to see through the account books, contracts, documents maintained by the company accused of irregularity. While the officials attached to EOW are trained and have expertise, the assistance of financial auditors is a must to understand the cases and point exactly where the irregularity lies. The services of the financial auditors is crucial as they help us unearth complicated money flow routed through complex web of companies and fix the role of the accused in the case. Without their expertise financial crimes cannot be probed effectively,” the official explained. “Also with the white collar crime shifting to the digital space and the accused exploiting the virtual platform, cyber forensics becomes an integral part of the investigations and therefore digital financial auditors come in handy to probe questionable transactions,” added the official.

Last year, in the cheating case against Yash Birla and his company Birla Power Solutions Ltd, while the scam is pegged at 280-300 crore, the State government had hired a financial auditor to ascertain the exact amount. However

the EOW did not pay the auditor for his services and therefore the investigations in the case suffered. “While the EOW recently filed a chargesheet in the said case, many of the alleged irregularities and the ‘round tripping’ of the money needs to be ascertained and that would be possible after the financial auditors join the probe,” another senior official explained.

In an email response to a query sent by Indian Express dated November 8, 2016 the defence counsel, Ramakant Gaur had attached a copy of the order passed by the Special MPID Court where one of the co-accused, Anand Wardhan, Communication Head of Yash Birla Group companies had agreed to pay the auditing fee of Rs 5.5 lakh. “An auditor was appointed, but his fee was not paid by the State department. The counsel for Mr. Anant Vardhan offered to pay the fee of the auditor,” Gaur reverted in an email.

Similarly in the NSEL case, while the State government has recently constituted a special task force to review and coordinate the ongoing probe into the alleged Rs 5600-crore NSEL scam, auditors Uday Gandhi and Chetan Dalal had withdrawn their guidance in the case over payments. Last August, the MPID court issued an order and asked the EOW to clear their dues. The agency owes Rs 20 lakhs to Dalal and Rs 10 lakhs to Gandhi. A part payment has been made and the firms have now joined the task force in the probe.

[The Indian Express]