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Criminal case against global PE players falls flat

  • Cops find no substance in complaint by Cobalt Power against Asian Genco investors

HYDERABAD: Foreign private equity investors in power company Asian Genco Pte Ltd (AGPL), who have been facing a criminal complaint, can now heave a sigh of relief as the police found no substance in the charges leveled against them by Cobalt Power.

The police have called the group of PE players – Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, General Atlantic Partners and Everstone Capital – for investigation and found that no criminality could be established against them.

AGPL has consistently contended that the dispute is at best of a civil nature and that the Complaint was filed only to harass the individuals.

The history of the case goes back to January 2, 2014, when Cobalt filed a complaint under Section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CRPC) before the III Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Magistrate), City Criminal Courts, Nampally, Hyderabad alleging criminality in act of Asian Genco investors. The allegation was that Asian Genco induced Cobalt to invest in East Coast Energy Private Limited (ECEPL). AGPL on its part failed to invest in Cobalt and thus caused loss to Cobalt.

A First Information Report (FIR) was registered with Sanjeeva Reddy Nagar Police Station for offences under sections 420 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, (IPC). AGPL filed a detailed response in May 2014 controverting the allegations of Cobalt.

In June 2014, Cobalt filed Writ Petition No. 17162 of 2014 seeking a direction from Hyderabad High Court to the Police to complete investigation and file a chargesheet against Accused persons mentioned in the Complaint.

AGPL filed a Criminal Petition in June 2014seeking to quash the FIR which the Court dismissed.

In September the Judge hearing the Writ Petition suggested that Cobalt and AGPL representatives meet in the presence of the Director-General of Police, Telangana and Commissioner of Police, City Police, Hyderabad, to amicably resolve their differences. Two meetings took place, but there was no resolution to the dispute.

In January 2015, Cobalt filed an application seeking to amend the Writ Petition alleging that the Investigating Officer (IO) was not independent and the investigating agency should be changed.

In March 2015, Cobalt filed another application seeking an early hearing of the Writ Petition and specifically an adjudication of the application filed in January. In April 2015, the Writ Petition came up for hearing on a couple of dates, however, the Judge was not inclined to hear the matter and the case was adjourned. The Writ Petition will come up for hearing after June 2015.

Earlier, in February 2015, some of the individual directors (Gautam Bhandari, Ranjit Pandit, Atul Kapur) and representative of AGPL appeared before the IO and submitted statements. Other directors – Brent William and Michael Carter – submitted statements even though they did not appear in person before the IO.

In April 2015, Cobalt filed a civil suit in Srikakulam seeking a declaration that the vote-along-rights clause in the Articles of Association be declared as being illegal and void. AGPL has filed replies in the Civil Suit and it is pending adjudication. The courts are closed for vacations and these will be heard in June 2015.

The IO, however, has submitted the final report under Section 173(2) (Report) of the CRPC holding that no criminality has been made in the Complaint.

The Judge in charge (XII Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate) is on leave till May 15 and thereafter, will examine the Report.

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