Sucheta Dalal :US law has fugitive Indian financier running
Sucheta Dalal

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US law has fugitive Indian financier running  

Jan 23, 2006

An Interpol ‘red corner’ notice against Dinesh Dalmia, who once headed the stock exchange-listed DSQ Software and DSQ Biotech, is clearly no barrier to the rogue industrialist making news overseas. Over the past two years, an American investigative journalist got on his trail and tracked Dalmia down to a palatial house in New Jersey and to a clutch of equally controversial new businesses. While Indian intelligence agencies struggle to find anything new, Dalmia has been a busy man indeed. But a week ago, Dalmia was on the run again, after bankruptcy proceedings filed against him in the US courts led to some decisive action. His hectic activities in several countries finally seem headed for a consolidated investigation and conclusion. Here is a quick recap of the past four years.


After being caught at fraudulently trying to place shares equal to 50% of DSQ Software’s capital with three Mauritius-based companies, Dinesh Dalmia ditched the Indian operations, sold his most lucrative international contracts to Ramesh Vangal’s Scandent Solutions and vanished from India. Scandent later listed on Indian SEs through a reverse-merger with a little known company. After abandoning the DSQ companies, Dalmia surfaced in the US as owner of a series of BPO outfits with offices in New Jersey, London and India (Gurgaon, Bangalore and Chennai) under the name Allserve Systems Corporation. These activities were exposed when Dalmia first attempted an audacious takeover of a US company called Aegis Communication and again last year, when he tried to reverse-merge another affiliate into TACT (The A Consulting Team, Inc), a Nasdaq-listed company. Both deals fell through following exposure by the NY Post. Interestingly, Ramesh Vangal, one of the largest shareholders and founder-promoter of Scandent Solutions, suddenly stepped down last week to spend more time with his flagship Katra group, which has interests in healthcare, beverages and marine bulk infrastructure.


Meanwhile, the Securities and Exch-ange Board of India (Sebi), the Securities Appellate Tribunal, the Enforcement Dire-ctorate and the Company Law Board issu-ed serious penalty orders against Dalmia in the two DSQ probes as recently as a mo-nth ago, and the Serious Fraud Investi-gation Office also continues to probe him.


Dalmia still thrived in the US, having raised a massive $82 million for his BPO operations. But, his penchant for diverting funds raised for a specific business to numbered accounts in Tortola seem to have destroyed the BPO business, too, and he filed for bankruptcy a month ago. During the recovery proceedings, his creditors discovered that his assets were barely worth $22 million. Bunce Atkinson, Federal trustee to the bankruptcy proceedings, then ordered all Allserve operations in the US be terminated after the court obtained “reliable information” that “very large fraudulent transfers” of debtor property have been made to India and that the company had been conducting fraudulent business activities subsequent to its bankruptcy petition. In an e-mail (available with me) to creditors’ representatives, Mr Atkinson said: “Over the last few days, the Trustee has received reliable information that has led him to determine that this Debtor has not materially complied with its obligations to make full disclosure to the Trustee of its assets, liabilities or operations...The Trustee has also received additional information that indicates that at least a prima facie case exists to seek the avoidance of very large fraudulent transfers and preferences and to further investigate allegations of actual fraud.”


• While our agencies struggle for leads, US law takes Dalmia by the collar

• Federal trustee to bankruptcy proceedings there issues a damaging order

• Money from Dalmia’s defunct firm may have gone into a hedge fund here


He then ordered the dismissal of Allserve employees worldwide, stop-ped payroll and cash transfers to them and changed locks on Allserve offices. A written demand is also understood to have been filed for accounting of debtor equipment in India.


Meanwhile, Christopher Byron of the New York Post reports that some money from Dalmia’s defunct Allserve Systems may have gone into an offshore hedge fund called the India Deep Value Fund, which recently applied for registration with Sebi and is bound to come in for close scrutiny in light of US media reports. Acti-ng on a tip that Dalmia had returned home, Indian intelligence agencies had launched a hunt for him in Delhi last week, but they seem to have drawn a blank again.


Strangely, neither the enforcement directorate nor the CBI has initiated any serious probe into Dalmia’s overseas she-nanigans and businesses, although he owes money to scores of Indian creditors.

-- Sucheta Dalal