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Looking into investments made in Gadkari's company: Govt

NEW DELHI: Amid allegations of dubious funding into the companies of BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, the Corporate Affairs Ministry today said it is looking into investments made in his company.

"The matter is being looked into," a senior Corporate Affairs Ministry official said. He was responding to a query on whether the ministry has started probe into allegations of dubious funding into Gadkari's company.

Embarrassing details have come out about the alleged dubious funding of Maharashtra-based Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, run by Gadkari.

On Tuesday, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily had said that Registrars of Companies would inquire into the allegations.

Media reports claim that major investments and large loans to Purti were made by a construction firm Ideal Road Builders (IRB) group, which had won contracts between 1995 and 1999, when Gadkari was a PWD minister in Maharashtra.

The BJP chief, who is set for his second term, has denied the allegations and has offered himself and his companies to any probe.

Nitin Gadkari has cancelled his scheduled trip to Delhi today as he was indisposed.

"Nitinji has cancelled his routine visit to Delhi since he is indisposed due to exertion yesterday on Vijayadashmi," his personal staff said when contacted.

It was widely speculated that Gadkari would be meeting the top party leaders in Delhi today, who have backed him. — PTIBack





Kingfisher crisis ends

NEW DELHI: The 26-day deadlock in Kingfisher Airlines was resolved on Thursday with the management agreeing to pay four months salary dues by December end to the striking employees who decided to resume work with immediate effect. 

“All our employees will resume work on Thursday, including the pilots and engineers. We will now on continue to work together,” airline CEO Sanjay Aggarwal told reporters after holding separate meetings with striking pilots and engineers at the airport in New Delhi. 

Engineers’ representative Subhash Chandra Mishra said, “we are joining duty from today. We have accepted the management’s proposal for a staggered payment of four months salary dues by December.” A representative of the striking pilots also said they will resume work immediately. 

Resumption of Kingfisher’s flight operations may take at least three to four weeks as the airline has to get its suspended flying license revoked by the DGCA which also has to satisfy itself on safety issues as well as the viability of their financial and operational plans. 

Under the agreement arrived at, the management, which was earlier offering only three months salaries, climbed down to accept the workers’ demand for payment of four out of seven months’ dues by December end. 

While the March salary would be paid within 24 hours, the April salary would be paid by October 31, May dues before Diwali in mid-November and June salary by December end. 

The salary dues from July to September would be paid by March next year after recapitalisation of the airline, the agitating staff said. 

The management also withdrew its circular asking the staffers to give a written undertaking before resuming duty. 

All Kingfisher flights have remained suspended since September 30 due to the strike, followed by a lockout from October one and then suspension of their Scheduled Operator’s Permit (SOP) or the flying license by aviation regulator DGCA. 

The license of Kingfisher was issued on August 26, 2003, and is valid till December 31 this year. 

The beleaguered carrier, which early last year had a fleet of 66 aircraft, now has ten -- seven Airbus A-320s and three ATR turbo-props. The airline is saddled with a loss of Rs 8,000 crore and a debt burden of another over Rs 7,524 crore, a large part of which has not been serviced for several months. 

The airline would have to get all necessary clearances from the DGCA by submitting the airline’s financial and operational plans to the satisfaction of the regulator, which would then take a decision on revoking suspension of the SOP and allowing the ailine to resume operations. 

Kingfisher management top brass met the striking engineers and pilots separately here in a bid to try to break the deadlock in a bid to prevent any protests by striking staffers during the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix, in which airline promoter Vijay Mallya is involved. 

Mallya, who co-owns the Sahara Force India team that is participating in the Indian Grand Prix, wanted to avoid any disruption by the agitating employees during the motor race. 

Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said while salary was “a big issue and the employees should be paid, the bigger issue than that is the airline’s fiscal assurance to the DGCA... They have lot of outstandings to the Airports Authority (of India), to companies, to lessors, so its not just a question of salaries to the employees.” 

He said their flying license, though suspended, is “still there but to allow them to fly again, the DGCA has to be satisfied on many more things.” The airline has to present a viable operational plan to the DGCA. 

Noting that the airline had not yet submitted any revival plan to the DGCA, Singh said, “It is not a question of me being hopeful or not, in my view, its a very difficult proposition but not impossible.” — PTIBack





Jaspal Bhatti dies in road accident

CHANDIGARH: Popular comedian and film director Jaspal Bhatti, who touched a chord with the masses with his humorous take on problems plaguing the common man, died when his car rammed into a roadside tree in the wee hours of Thursday.

The satirist’s son Jasraj who was driving the car and actress Surilie Gautam, the heroine of his film Power Cut which is to be released on Friday, were seriously injured in the mishap, police said.

The 57-year-old actor-director, who made his way into the hearts of his people with his satirical shows like ‘Ulta Pulta’ and ‘Flop Show’, was on a tour to promote the film when the accident took place near Shahkot in Nakodar area of the district at 2:30 a.m., Bhatti’s associate Vinod Sharma told PTI in Chandigarh.

They were rushed to a private hospital in Jalandhar, where Bhatti was declared brought dead.

“His body was brought to the hospital after 3 a.m. and after medical examination he was declared dead,” said Dr Harpreet Singh.

Bhatti leaves behind his wife Savita, a son and a daughter Raabiya.

Sharma said that Bhatti was going to Jalandhar from Bhatinda for the promotion of his Punjabi film which is based on the frequent power cuts in Punjab.

Bhatti’s son Jasraj and Gautam have been referred to a Ludhiana hospital. According to doctors, they are in a stable but critical condition.

Born on March 3, 1955, at Amritsar, Bhatti graduated from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh as an electrical engineer.

During his college days, he was popular for his street plays which were spoofs ridiculing corruption in society.

Before venturing into television, he was a cartoonist for the The Tribune newspaper in Chandigarh.

His satire on the Punjab police, Mahaul Theek Hai, was his first directorial venture in Punjabi. He played the role of Jolly Good Singh, a guard, in the movie Fanaa. He also starred in the Punjabi film Jijaji. 

Bhatti and his wife Savita competed in a reality show ’Nach Baliye’ in 2008. The couple put their best foot forward to entertain the audiences with their dancing and comic skills.

The cremation is expected to take place later Thursday evening after his body is brought to Chandigarh after completion of various legal formalities and post-mortem, Sharma said. — PTIBack





Bollywood mourns Bhatti’s death

MUMBAI: Bollywood celebrities on Thursday expressed shock over satirist Jaspal Bhatti’s death in a car accident, calling it a loss of an “incredible entertainer”.

Bhatti died when his car rammed into a roadside tree in the wee hours. While his son Jasraj, who was driving the car and actress Surilie Gautam were seriously injured in the mishap

Anupam Kher, who was quite close to Bhatti, tweeted, “Just landed in Mumbai and came to know about my friend Jaspal Bhatti’s tragic death. Why is God taking away all d nicest people. So SAD (sic).

“I used to tell Jaspal Bhatti that he does fantastic comedy so seriously. He was also a great supporter of anti corruption campaign. RIP.”

Actor Akshay Kumar recalled memories of Bhatti’s hit TV series ‘Flop Show’. “Saddened to know about the death of the great comedian, Jaspal Bhatti. I have fond memories of his super hit show, Flop Show, providing the much needed humour in our lives. May his soul rest in peace,” Akshay posted on Twitter.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar said Bhatti had mastered the art of making people laugh. “RIP Bhatti ji, may God give strength to your family,” he added.

Actor Jimmy Sheirgill, who also hails from Punjab, seemed shaken with the news.

“Received another shockingly terrible news of the demise of Jaspal Bhatti saab today... I don’t know what’s hapenning…so sad... RIP,” said Sheirgill.

“My deepest condolences to late Jaspal Bhatti’s family! May God give them strength to bear this sudden loss! May Bhatti saab rest in peace!” said Manoj Bajpayee.

“Really sad to hear the news about Jaspal Bhatti’s death.. What an incredible entertainer he was..,” tweeted Kunal Kapoor.

Aftab Shivdasani tweeted, “Prayers for the soul of ace comedian Jaspalji Bhatti, unfortunate and sad. RIP.”

“RIP Jaspal Bhatti! really sad! He really got us all ’Ulta Pulta wth his wit n humor (sic),” said Divya Dutta.

“The man behind the superhit ‘Flop Show’, no more. RIP Bhatti sahab,” said Shreyas Talpade. — PTIBack




Insider trading case: Rajat Gupta gets 2 years in jail

NEW YORK: Disgraced Wall Street titan and philanthropist Rajat Gupta was sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday, a much lighter sentence than US prosecutors had demanded, by a judge who called his insider trading crimes "disgusting" and "a terrible breach of trust." Gupta was also ordered to pay a $5 million fine. He was convicted in Manhattan federal court last June for leaking Goldman Sachs (GS.N) boardroom secrets to Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager at the center of a US government crackdown on insider trading over the past four years.

Some legal experts said Wednesday's sentence came as a surprise, while others said the judge struck a fine balance.

US District Judge Jed Rakoff told a somber courtroom audience, including Gupta's wife and four adult daughters, that the illegal sharing of corporate secrets at the height of the 2008 financial crisis "was the functional equivalent of stabbing Goldman in the back."

Gupta, 63, gave no visible reaction to the sentence, which was given at the end of a 30-minute statement in which the judge spelled out the businessman's "extraordinary" philanthropy over decades that stood in stark contrast to his crimes.

Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) co-founder, and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan were among 400 friends and luminaries who had written letters to the judge urging leniency.

During the trial, the court heard how Gupta had tipped off his then friend and business associate Rajaratnam between September and October of 2008. Within minutes of a conference call of members of Goldman's board on September 23, 2008, Gupta told Rajaratnam that influential investor Warren Buffett was infusing $5 billion into the investment bank. Rajaratnam traded on the information as the market was closing.

Rakoff said during the two-and-a-half hour sentencing proceedings that the t ip "was not only overwhelming, but it was disgusting in its implications ... a terrible breach of trust" at a time when Goldman Sachs was in turmoil.

But the judge also said: "I have never encountered a defendant whose past history suggests such an extraordinary devotion ... to people in need."

Gupta had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years for securities fraud and five years for conspiracy. Federal judges have wide leeway in sentencing and Rakoff has a reputation for veering from guidelines for courts in handing down punishment.

Minimum security prison sought
Rakoff ordered Gupta to begin his sentence on January 8, 2013. The US Bureau of Prisons will decide where, but his lawyer asked for the minimum security prison in Otisville, New York.

The judge denied Gupta's lawyer's bid to have him freed on bail pending an appeal, which could last as long as two years. His lawyer, Gary Naftalis, said in a statement that "we believe the facts of this case demonstrate that Gupta is innocent."

The former Goldman director is the most influential corporate figure to be convicted in the wide U.S. probe of insider trading involving fund managers, traders, consultants and executives. He is a former global head of the McKinsey & Co management consultancy, and once sat on the boards of Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) and American Airlines, as well advising philanthropies including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gupta was born poor in India and orphaned as a teenager but rose to the top of the corporate and philanthropic elite.

His sentence was less than the eight to 10 years sought by prosecutors, but more than the probation and community service in Rwanda sought by Gupta's lawyers. The judge dismissed that proposal as "a kind of Peace Corps for insider traders."

It was also less than some other insider trading defendants who were jailed for between four and 10 years. Rajaratnam is serving an 11-year prison sentence, one of the longest for insider trading.

On Thursday, a US appeals court in New York is set to hear Rajaratnam's appeal. He argues prosecutors should not have been able to play phone taps of his conversations at his trial because he says they were improperly obtained.

"Sanctity of corporate confidence"
Assistant US Attorney Richard Tarlowe argued for a sentence of at least eight years, telling the court "Mr Gupta knew as much about the sanctity of these types of corporate confidences as anybody, and that's what makes it so shocking."

New York securities class action and shareholder rights lawyer Mark Rifkin said the judge "understood both sides of the argument, and the relatively light sentence he imposed balances Gupta's misuse of his position against a lifetime of good work."

But Andrew Stoltmann, an attorney and investor rights advocate based in Chicago, wondered whether Gupta's "Mother Teresa-like halo" had warranted a sentence that was "little more than a slap on the wrist."

"He had such an important role at some of these companies that it is kind of the ultimate betrayal of trust," he said.

When Gupta addressed the court, he read from a statement for six minutes, using bland language that stopped short of fully admitting his conduct, but apologizing to "extraordinary institutions and outstanding people" and to his family.

"I feel terrible that they have been burdened with totally undeserved negative attention. I apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness," Gupta said.

Naftalis, arguing for a lenient sentence, said his client had suffered a "fall from grace of Greek tragedy proportions."

"This was an iconic figure who had been a role model for countless people around the globe," he said. "He is no more." — Reuters






I lost my reputation built over a lifetime: Rajat Gupta

NEW DELHI: A devastated India-born former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta, who was sentenced today for insider trading crimes, said he has lost his reputation built over a lifetime and apologised to his family and colleagues.

Making his first statement since being charged with insider trading over a year ago, Gupta, 63, read from a prepared statement for six minutes before being sentenced by US District Judge Jed Rakoff to two years in prison on securities fraud and conspiracy in federal court here.

"The last 18 months have been the most challenging period of my life since I lost my parents as a teenager. I have lost my reputation that I have built over a lifetime," Gupta said in a tone that did not betray any emotions.

Standing before the judge for his sentencing, Gupta said, "The overwhelming feelings in my heart are of acceptance of what has happened, of gratitude to my family and friends, and of seeking forgiveness from them all. It is with these feelings that I hope to move forward and dedicate myself to the service of others."

Gupta said his conviction on insider trading charges by a jury in June this year was "devastating" to him as well as to his friends and family and added that the implications of the verdict to all aspects of his life — personal, professional and financial -- have been "profound."

"Much of the first year seemed surreal to me, however, since the trial, I have come to accept the reality of my life going forward. I want to say here that I regret terribly the impact of this matter on my family, my friends and the institutions that are dear to me," Gupta said.

Gupta has been ordered to pay a $5-million fine and would have to surrender in prison on January 8 next year. He will also have to undergo a year of supervised release after his prison term ends.

He had not testified at his trial in June this year and neither had he spoken to the media. Gupta, however, stopped short of taking responsibility for his conviction or admitting his conduct in his statement.

Gupta said during the course of the legal case, he has thought about the institutions and people he had worked with and mentored and feels "terrible" that they had to deal with "undeserved" negative attention.

"I had the privilege of touching many lives in many fields. I mentored many young people, and many more view me as a role model. I served on many boards and many advisory positions with institutions that I hold in the highest regard.

"I have given a lot of thought to them during these last 18 months. These are extraordinary institutions and outstanding people, and I feel terrible that they have been burdened with totally undeserved negative attention. I apologise to them and ask for their forgiveness."

The IIT and Harvard educated Kolkata native said he also often thought about three not-for-profit organisations — the Indian School of Business, the Public Health Foundation of India, the America India Foundation, which he had helped create.

"These are very young institutions and in the early years of developing a reputation. I love these institutions as if they were my own children. I never want to hurt them in any way.

"Most importantly, I regret terribly any potential damage to their outstanding reputations," Gupta said.

Expressing gratitude for the support his friends have shown him so far, Gupta said he feels responsible for the "sense of loss" they have endured as "a result of what has happened."

Gupta said the events of the last one year have been devastating for his "large, extended close family" and he feels he has let his family down due to his criminal case.

"My family has always meant the world to me. My brother, sisters, in-laws, nephews and nieces have all surrounded me in these 18 months to comfort me and to give me courage. Every time I look at their faces, I get overcome with a deep sense of letting them down."

He said he and his wife Anita, whom he had met at IIT Delhi, have brought up their four daughters with the values of honesty, integrity and hard work.

"It is unbearable to me to see how much they have suffered. I just feel terribly that I have put them through this," he said. — PTI






Reward announced for abducted Indian baby in US

WASHINGTON: The Philadelphia police continued with its search to find the kidnapped 10-month-old Indian girl, as it joined hands with the Telugu community to announce an award of $30,000 to information leading to the safe return of the infant.

Saani Venna was abducted by unknown kidnappers in a Philadelphia township on Monday morning, during which her grandmother Satyavathi Venna, 61, was killed by the assailants.

A large number of people including those from the Indian American community attended a candle-light vigil in memory of the Satyavathi.

The vigil was organised by the Telugu Association of North America (TANA).

Meanwhile, the police and the FBI continued with their intensive search operation to find Saani Venna.

"This is not a typical homicide investigation," district attorney Risa Vetri Ferman told the Philly Inquirer.

"We also have the search and rescue operation," she added.

She said investigators were being guarded with information because, "We do not want to do anything that would jeopardize the child's safety."

Pennsylvania State Police has issued an Amber Child Abduction Alert for Saanvi Venna who is believed to have been taken from her family's apartment after the murder of her grandmother, Satayvathi Venna.

According to Ferman, the body of Satyavathi Venna, the paternal grandmother of Saanvi, was discovered inside the apartment. She was babysitting the child.

The grandmother was visiting from India, arriving in July 2012 and was scheduled to return home January 2013.

The parents of the child, Venkata Konda Siva Venna (father) and Chenchu Latha Punuru (mother) had emigrated from India in February 2007 and have previously lived in San Antonio Texas, Troy Michigan, and Cleveland Ohio.

In June 2012, they moved to King of Prussia in Pennsylvania. — PTI




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