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IL&FS-Ansal link: Mystery loss of post-dated cheques

Sandeep Singh
Their role will now be under the scanner as regulatory agencies look at the web of IL&FS transactions.

IL&FS Financial Services MD Ramesh Bawa allegedly bending norms to favour Ansal Group, as reported by The Indian Express on Wednesday, isn t the only questionable link between the two companies.

Last year, PenBrook (Peninsula Brookfield) Capital, an India-focused real estate fund, discovered that another IL&FS-linked firm had mysteriously lost post-dated cheques (PDCs) issued by Ansal Hi-Tech against investments in 2014-15 of around `200 crore by PenBrook, sources have confirmed to The Indian Express.

Sources said IL&FS Trust Company, (now called Vistra ITCL after it was acquired by Vistra in 2016), was the trustee firm that kept these cheques.

PenBrook Capital had invested around `200 crore in Ansal Group s projects from funds raised in 2014 and had taken PDCs from all recipients of the fund, including Ansals.

While the Ansals have not repaid the loan, the fact that the PDCs have been lost by the trustee puts the fund in a precarious situation. For, if PenBrook had the PDCs and had they been dishonoured for lack of funds with Ansal Group, the fund could have filed a case under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instrument Act, a source said.

Section 138 of the Act deals with dishonour of cheque for insufficiency of funds in the account and states that the person will be deemed to have committed an offence and can be imprisoned for up to two years or be fined up to twice the amount of the cheque, or with both.

Emails sent to Vistra ITCL (India), Peninsula Brookfield and Ansal Group did not elicit any response.

In 2017-18, in an e-mail to PenBrook Capital, Vistra ITCL accepted it had lost the PDCs.

We are carrying out a thorough check at our Delhi office for locating the three PDCs of Ansal Hi-Tech… Since the transaction was handled by ex-employees on your side and our side, it is taking time, Vistra ITCL said in its email to PenBrook.

In the e-mail it also indicated foul play. Further, on grounds of suspected foul play by ex-employees and to ensure adequate action, we have yesterday evening lodged a complaint with the local police station.

Vistra went ahead to suggest to PenBrook that it could pursue the case through insolvency proceedings under the Bankruptcy code instead of piecemeal security enforcement as many other real-estate loans facing default are doing.

A source at PenBrook said: While we understand that there were close financial ties between Ansal Group and some top officials of IL&FS Group, we have learnt that several IL&FS Trust employees quit after the company was acquired by Vistra in 2016.

Their role will now be under the scanner as regulatory agencies look at the web of IL&FS transactions.