The Enforcement Directorate has arrested two persons in connection with a sophisticated Rs 1,030 crore e-tender scam involving e-tendering for the Madhya Pradesh government’s infrastructure projects besides other illegal monetary transactions. Taken into custody under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the two businessmen have been remanded in judicial custody till February 3, 2020, by a Hyderabad court.
The arrested duo is Srinivas Raju Mantena, Founder and Chairman of Hyderabad-based Mantena Constructions, and his associate Aditya Tripathi, who runs Bhopal-based Arni Infra. The two of them have been accused of conspiring with a few senior government officials and IT service providers of the Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation (MPSEDC) to tamper with e-Tenders to win large-value contracts.
The Enforcement Directorate’s actions are based on a case filed in April 2019 in which two Hyderabad-based firms, Max Mantena Micro and GVPR Engineers, have been named as the main beneficiaries of a scam. Max Mantena Micro is a joint venture between Mantena Constructions and Max Infra, another Hyderabad-based firm.
The target of the scam was the MP government’s e-procurement portal, managed and maintained together by MPSEDC, Antares Systems of Bengaluru, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the FIR says.
The Bhopal Economic Offences Wing’s (EOW) preliminary charge sheet shows that Antares provided the portal’s login credentials to a company, Osmo IT Solutions, run by Vinay Choudhary and Varun Chathurvedi. Osmo used the credentials to illegally access and tamper with e-tenders and change the bid values of certain companies, a press release from the Enforcement Directorate said. In return, Osmo was paid for by rival companies.
The probe next noted that Max Mantena Micro Hyderabad had illegally won a tender worth Rs 1,030 crore in this manner. Other such tenders, too, are under scrutiny, the ED has said. The Mantena Group, in particular, had seen a big spurt in successful bids over the past few years, either directly or in association with other Hyderabad-based companies.
Search operations were conducted at over 20 locations in Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Bengaluru. This mostly included the residential and official premises connected with Mantena Constructions, Max Infra, GVPR Engineers, Arni Infra, Osmo IT Solutions, and Antares. A large number of incriminating documents and digital devices were seized for examination, the probing agency has said.
It was clear to the it that Srinivas Raju Mantena had played a crucial role in the entire scam, its press release said.
It was revealed that he set up Arni Infra in Bhopal with his accomplice Aditya Tripathi’s help as a front entity. It was used to route funds for hawala activities, booking fictitious work orders and generating cash to pay bribes to tamper the MP government’s e-tenders and to payoff senior government functionaries.
The fund trail has also yielded direct unexplained financial transactions between Mantena Constructions and Arni Infra on one side and Vinay Choudhary and Varun Chathurvedi, the accused directors of Osmo IT Solutions. The latter duo is already under the custody of the Bhopal EOW, the release added.