The conclusion of the Lahoti Committee
First heard in the Supreme Court of India on the 9th September 2011, Solomon James’ writ 383 is a petition signed by 115 panelists demanding the money owed to them by Speak Asia.
Currently castrated by multiple criminal investigations being held into the company, Speak Asia stopped paying its members in May of this year, before transferring over a hundred million USD out of India shortly after.
This money, which belonged to the Speak Asia’s members, hasn’t been seen since it was transferred out of India.
As the James writ 383 petition progressed in the Supreme Court, eventually the court initiated the formation of the Lahoti Committee. Led by former Chief Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, the court ordered that the Lahoti Committee ‘explore the possibility of an amicable settlement between the parties‘.
Since May, all banks in India have been actively blocking any official transfers of money from Speak Asia’s known bank accounts into India. These banks are completely aware of the criminal investigations into Speak Asia and are not willing to shoulder the liability should the company be found guilty of fraud upon conclusion of said investigations.
To date, this has not changed. Thus upon hearing about the formation of the Lahoti Committee I surmised as much, charging that the Lahoti Committee was in all probability, a procedural waste of time.
Following the first Lahoti Committee meeting in November, subsequent meetings have been held in secret, with most finer details of the discussion being kept from members of the public and Speak Asia’s own members.
One detail of the Committee meetings that has leaked out however (proof evident that those involved are only leaking information that benefits them), is that the EOW (the main authoritative body investigating Speak Asia) have not been present.
That changed last Monday when it was widely reported (more proof that those attending will only leak information that benefits them), that the EOW did indeed attend.
If one was to believe Speak Asia’s senior panelists, this attendance would be a good thing and somehow translates into imminent ‘victory for Speak Asia’.
Don’t ask me, I have no idea.
To date the EOW has publicly charged that Speak Asia is the biggest MLM fraud they have ever investigated, and currently hold the two most senior publicly known management figures of Speak Asia, Melvin Crasto and Ashish Dandekar, under arrest.
Just yesterday a court denied Ashish Dandekar bail again, purely on the basis that evidence was presented in court showing that he was working for Speak Asia in a management capacity.
Despite this however, for some reason Speak Asia’s senior panelists believe the EOW’s involvement in the Lahoti Committee can only spell a positive outcome for the company.
Leave alone the fact that the Lahoti Committee was only ever charged with facilitating a dialogue between Speak Asia and its panelists and has nothing to do with the criminal investigation open into the company, nor its business operations.
As far as the EOW’s involvement in the Lahoti Committee goes, here’s what we know thus far;
Justice Lahoti held a mediation meeting at the India International Centre in New Delhi on 19.12.2011 at 6 pm.
In attendance were an investigating officer of EOW along with the Special Public Prosecutor Gharat.
The EOW has submitted their say about the criminal side of the ongoing investigation and that the petitioners’ credentials need to be checked.
Whether any new information other than the EOW believe Speak Asia to be the biggest MLM fraud they’ve ever seen, or that they are actively hunting down what Speak Asia management are left in India remains at this stage unknown. But by and large, it’s extremely doubtful the EOW had anything positive to say about Speak Asia.
With their investigation clearly ongoing, the point I made back on November 14th about the Lahoti Committee being at the mercy of the criminal investigations still stands.
The mention by the EOW that the petitioner’s credentials need to be checked was a bit unexpected, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure what it means.
When Melvin Crasto was arrested, AISPA insisted he was just a panelist, despite the fact it was later revealed he’d taken over $43,000 USD in kickbacks from Speak Asia since the company effectively shut down.
When Ashish Dandekar was arrested, senior panelists immediately announced that the EOW had arrested a simple Regional Manager of Speak Asia who knew nothing. Since then the EOW has managed to present evidence convincing enough in court to prove that Dandekar has been operating as effective COO of Speak Asia for some time, and subsequently a judge has repeatedly denied him bail for his involvement in the scam.
In stating that the petitioner’s credentials need to be checked, are the EOW subtly suggesting that the information they have gleaned from Crasto and Dandekar suggests that some of the 114 panelists signed on the James writ are not just simple panelists?
And if not, then what exactly are they hinting at?
As the EOW’s criminal investigation into Speak Asia continues, following the Lahoti Committee’s Monday meeting it was confirmed by AISPA’s Ashok Bahirwani that the Monday meeting was the conclusion of the Lahoti Committee mediation process.
That is to say, what happens next is that Lahoti looks at the mediation process as a whole, puts down his recommendations into a report and submits it to the Supreme Court for review.
General consensus amongst Speak Asia’s senior panelists seems to be that this will mean payments restarting soon and some even go so far to suggest that Lahoti will even recommend the restart of business operations.
Whilst the latter is completely outside of the scope of the Lahoti Committee itself, the former is presented with absolutely no basis whatsoever.
By all appearances the EOW have done what I thought they’d do, rock up to the committee, state that their investigation was ongoing and leave. Given that all involved in the Lahoti Committee already knew that, in short: a waste of their time.
Looking forward after Lahoti has submitted his report the Supreme Court will take a look at it and then set a future hearing date to make their decision known.
AISPA’s Bahirwani estimates this to be in early January, but until the Court actually sets a date, we’ll just have to wait and see.