speak-asia-online-logoFor some strange reason little information has leaked out about what went down at Solomon James’ hearing in the Supreme Court. Yesterday just prior to the hearing this message was published on speakasiaonline.mobi;







Since then, as far as I can tell nothing has been released publicly by either Solomon James, AISPA or Speak Asia themselves.

This is in stark contrast to the last hearing regarding the matter, as almost immediately upon its conclusion Speak Asia’s members published their own positive spin on the outcome.

One can only assume this time, the abundant silence indicates otherwise. Especially considering that AISPA secretary Ashok Bahirwani wrote with great excitement back in October that yesterdays hearing was to provide us with the knowledge of ‘what the stand of all the parties is’ and also that ‘we will come to understand what the Hon. Court thinks prima facie, and what is the stand of the Hon. Court.‘.

One would think had the stand of the parties involved, and what the court thinked was positive regarding Speak Asia, that Bahirwani and Speak Asia’s members would have been shouting it from the rooftops by now.

Meanwhile some more information has come to light regarding the criminal investigations into Speak Asia. The long and the short of it?

Monday’s Supreme Court hearing on the 14th November is probably not going to be as defining as many would have hoped.

LiveMint have published several updates regarding investigations by the EOW, the Enforcement Directorate, Ministry of Corporate Affairs and Indian Income Tax Department.

With just over 48 hours to go till Speak Asia’s next major Supreme Court hearing, here’s the current status of most of the investigations into Speak Asia by the authorities.

The Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department

Perhaps the most damning allegation thus far stems from India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax Department (ID).

The ED charge that using ‘at least 100 overseas bank accounts‘, Speak Asia and it’s promoters and associates ‘breached India’s foreign exchange laws and evaded payment of income tax‘.

With Speak Asia being under investigation for months now, despite claims by Speak Asia’s members that the authorities have been sitting on their hands with nothing to show for it, an unnamed ED official revealed that

The investigation is at an advanced stage and we expect to file a show-cause notice by the end of December.

Despite claims by Speak Asia as recent as just two days ago that they are ”totally committed to cooperating with the concerned authorities‘, LiveMint claim that

Manoj Kumar, chief executive officer (India) of Speak Asia, did not respond to an email sent to him on Thursday. He also could not be reached on his mobile phone.

Subsequently the ED has had to instead had to seek ‘information from foreign countries‘ on the aforementioned accounts of Speak Asia and its associates.

Whilst the ED investigations will no doubt continue on regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court on Monday, the end of December puts us currently roughly six weeks away.

The IT department on the other hand is building a strong case charging that neither Speak Asia or its associates paid any tax on their earnings;

The I-T department has already issued show-cause notices to the firm and its associates, asking them to explain why they should not be penalized for not filing tax returns.

It has also frozen Rs. 134 crore in the bank account of Speak Asia.

Apparently these show-cause notices have been replied to by Speak Asia and the company has ‘agreed to file income-tax returns with the department‘ with the IT department ‘expecting the tax returns by the end of this month (November)‘.

Upon being received, no doubt the IT department will continue their investigations, but unfortunately as of this time no further timetable or investigation schedule has been mentioned by the IT department.

The Economic Offenses Wing

Increasingly becoming the public face of the multiple departments investigating Speak Asia for criminal activity, the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) unusually declined to comment on the progress of their investigations.

Rajvardhan Sinha, additional commissioner of police at EOW in Mumbai, said the department is still investigating Speak Asia and declined to share details of any findings.

With the EOW expected to play a major role in Monday’s case against Speak Asia, no doubt any specifics mentioned by the EOW at this late stage could jeopardize the proceedings.

With Monday just around the corner, we’ll have to wait and see what the EOW say then.

Sinha did however mention that the EOW had ‘submitted a report on the company to the Bombay high court’ and was holding a ‘two-day seminar on law enforcement next week that will also discuss how to investigate the so-called Ponzi schemes‘.

This came about after the

the Bombay high court directed EOW to file a report on Speak Asia and other multi-level marketing firms, which were being investigated by the police, and detail preventive steps it proposes to put in place to deal with such marketers.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs

There’s not much to report on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) investigation into Speak Asia.

Quoting a ‘senior official’ of the MCA, it was stated that the ‘MCA is expecting the SFIO report by December‘. The SFIO being the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, the investigative agency of the MCA handling the case.

So what’s going to happen in the Supreme Court on the 14th November?

AISPA sectretary Ashok Bahirwani mentioned back on the 31st of October that yesterday’s Solomon James hearing would include the presence of the RBI, EOW and Finance Ministry.

The fact that this hearing hasn’t been reported on does leave cause for concern and could hint at a possible negative outcome for Speak Asia come Monday in the Supreme Court.

It’s well noted that at the last hearing, updates on how it went were published within an hour of the hearing’s conclusion and this was likely due to the perceived positive nature of the hearing for Speak Asia.

Of particular interest in yesterday’s hearing would be any remarks made the RBI and EOW, both of whom are required to make an appearance at Mondays hearing. Details of the involvement in yesterday’s hearing could strongly indicate what they will present to the court on Monday.

Looking at the other departments mentioned in the LiveMint report, it’s clear that the investigations are ongoing and for one reason or another, aren’t likely to be concluded for at least another month yet.

Thus I imagine on Monday these departments will simply rock up to court, explain that their investigations are ongoing and be given more time.

Contrary to popular belief amongst Speak Asia’s members that Monday is some sort of deadline for the authorities, I’ve stated many times before that it is extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court will order a closing or deadline for any criminal investigation.

Criminal investigations aren’t just shut down because of impatience, it’s unheard of.

Taking into account the December predictions made by the Enforcement Directorate and MCA, along with the IT department waiting on Speak Asia and associates to file a tax return, any conclusion to any of these investigations still seems at least a month away.

As for the EOW, they’ve already released quite a lot of information over the past two months pertaining to their investigations. I’d imagine at this point there’s nothing new to report and the summaries of what they have already made public will be presented to the court on Monday.

The CID and RBI on the otherhand have remained largely silent and it is with great interest we wait to see what updates and information they present.

Especially seeing as yesterday upon condition of being granted anticipatory bail, Speak Asia’s COO Tarak Bajpai, along with Rajiv Mehrotra (head web developer), Rahul Shah (VP of Tulsient Information Systems – a company owned by Speak Asia Indian CEO Manoj Kumar), Ravi Khanna (accountant) and Deepankar Sarkar (Speak Asia master panelist) had to make ‘themselves available on 11th November, 2011 at 10.00 a.m. for interrogation‘ by the authorities.

Up until now, Speak Asia have pretty much hidden Tarak Bajpai from the authorities by placing him in hospital immedatiely after arrest, and then harbouring him in hiding upon his discharge. I have read since that not surprisingly, right before he is to be interrogated, Bajpai is back in hospital but at the time of publication I can’t confirm this.

Aside from any developments following yesterday’s interrogation, personally I’m looking forward to either of these departments taking Speak Asia to task for submitting a business model they never implemented. That would be something I’d love to hear the company defend, as thus far it has gone unchallenged by any Indian authority.

Barring any surprise allegations from either the EOW or CID at Monday’s hearing, I imagine the court will simply set another hearing for sometime in December and maybe even as late as January.

For now, all we can do is wait and see what happens on the 14th November. Stay tuned.