New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday called Minister of Railways and Coal Piyush Goyal's alleged sale of shares held in a privately-held company at nearly 1,000 times the face value as a "murky saga" of "gratification, gross impropriety and conflict of interest". The party also sought his removal and a "comprehensive, independent investigation" into the matter.
Citing a detailed story by a news website, the Congress alleged the BJP leader had sold, in September 2014, the entire stock of the privately-held company he and his wife owned, at nearly 1,000 times the face value to a group firm owned by Ajay Piramal, without informing the Prime Minister's Office then or later. The transaction took place four months after Goyal became a minister.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told reporters that the deal "directly exposed" one of the seniormost cabinet ministers of the Modi government.
The article in the news website The Wire alleged Goyal's ownership of the company -- Flashnet Info Solutions (India) Private Limited -- nor its subsequent sale were disclosed in the mandatory statement of assets and liabilities he made to the Prime Minister's Office in 2014 and 2015.
When IANS tried to contact Goyal at his office in the Coal Ministry, an official said the minister could not be contacted as he was in Bengaluru. IANS also reached out to the Piramal group for a reaction, but did not receive any response.
Khera alleged that Goyal and his wife, who owned 50,070 shares of Flashnet Info priced at Rs 10, sold the entire stock at a premium of 1,000 per cent to a group company of Piramal Estates Private Limited. He held the Power & Renewable Energy portfolio in the Union Cabinet for four months at the time.
He said that the board resolution of Piramal Enterprises on June 12, 2014, authorised the purchase of the entire stock of 50,070 shares in Flashnet Info held by Goyal and his wife "for a consideration not exceeding Rs 10,000 per share".
Piramal group entered the renewable energy business in 2013 and in July 2014 inked a deal with APG Asset Management for investments worth $1 billion in various infrastructure projects, including in the power sector, according to details given by the website. Khera called this a "clear case of conflict of interest and brazen crony capitalism".
Khera said that "although the net worth of Flashnet Info was only Rs 10.9 crore (even six months after the sale, according to statutory filings), filings by Piramal Estates reflect that... Rs 48 crore was provided (for) Goyal family-owned shares".
Goyal served as director of Flashnet from November 25, 2004, to May 26, 2014 -- the day he was sworn in as Minister for Power and Renewable Energy. Seema Goyal was a director from April 2009 till May 26, 2014. The couple, however, continued to own almost 99 per cent of the company even after resigning as directors, the website alleged.
Khera said that the transactions raised several question which needed to be answered by Goyal, including why the Piramal group bought Flashnet Info from him for a whopping Rs 48 crore; why did he not mention his controlling stake in Flashnet when he was MP, BJP's National Treasurer and then Union Cabinet minister; why as Union minister he did not declare his ownership and his wife's ownership in Flashnet while declaring his assets on the PMO website; and why had the PM not questioned him.
Khera said Prim Minister Modi's credibility was on "test once again".