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Corporate Sep 13, 2012

Assets: Pawar distances himself from controversial IRB

By Abhay Vaidya

The latest assets declaration filed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on the prime minister's website shows two interesting changes over last year's declaration which had sparked a controversy over undeclared shares.

These changes relate to Pawar's shareholdings in two controversial firms in Maharashtra -- Mumbai-based IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd and Pune-based Panchshil Hotels Pvt Ltd, part of the Panchshil Group of companies which has been in the spotlight for its partnerships with the 2G spectrum scam-tainted DB Realty.

Union Minister Sharad Pawar. Reuters

Pawar's latest assets declaration shows that the NCP president and his wife Pratibha no longer hold shares in IRB which is under investigation by the CBI in connection with the murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty in January 2010. Firstpost, in an exclusive report on 9 May, had pointed out to the 2,000 shares held by the Pawar couple in this firm which has had a meteoric rise in barely 13 years. IRB was in the headlines four months ago after the CBI secured magisterial permission to conduct a polygraph test on the company's chairman and managing director Virendra Mhaiskar and nine others in connection with the Shetty murder.

Pawar has also rectified the mistake in his last year's assets declaration ending 31 March 2011 in which his shareholding in Panchshil Hotels Pvt. Ltd. was not reported accurately.

Last year, Pawar's assets declaration sparked a controversy in September 2011 as it did not reveal the 1.47 lakh bonus shares issued to him and the 1.45 lakh bonus shares issued to his wife by Panchshil Hotels Pvt Ltd in 2009. A day after reports in the media, the company issued a clarification taking responsibility for Pawar's non-disclosure. The clarification said that "the company inadvertently did not intimate and/or dispatch the physical share certificates to the shareholder".

The latest declaration now shows the Pawar couple's total share holding of 5.84 lakh shares in Panchshil Hotels Pvt. Ltd as was brought to light by the media last year.

Panchshil Hotels, established by Pawar's college friend and sugar trader Ishwardas Chordia and his brother Kantilal in 1978, is part of the Panchshil Realty Group, which is among the firms in Maharashtra that have shown astounding growth. Led by Ishwardas's son, Atul, this firm was at the centre of a raging controversy in April 2011 when the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, Eknath Khadse alleged links between Pawar and DB Realty's managing director Shahid Balwa and his partner Vinod Goenka, both arrested in connection with the 2G spectrum scam. Records with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) showed that in 2010, DB Realty's Eon Aviation Pvt Ltd shared the same address (31/A, ground floor, Dr. Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg, Pedder Road, Mumbai) with Panchshil Hotels Pvt. Ltd. and other sister concerns such as EON Kharadi Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd and EON Hadapsar Infrastructure Pvt Ltd.

RoC records showed that in Pune, the Eon Aviation office stood located in the Panchshil Tech Park One complex which shared the controversial survey no. 191(A) at Yerawada with DB Realty's five-star hotel project. This project now stands stalled presenting an ugly sight. In April 2011, the Panchshil Group acknowledged in the media that Pawar's daughter and NCP leader Supriya Sule and her husband Sadanand held 4 percent shares in the Panchshil Tech Park One project.

The assets declaration filed by Pawar shows an increase of Rs 3.76 crore over the Rs 12.45 crore assets he had declared in 2011. This includes the movable and immovable properties of Rs 7.86 crore in his name, Rs 4.76 crore in his wife's name and Rs 3.58 crore in his name under "Hindu undivided family".

by Abhay Vaidya

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