The Swiss have agreed to narrate a tale. This one may not be as spicy or as interesting as the Vikram-Betal, Ambulimaama or Jatak Katha tales, but only numbers sufficient enough to show murky dealings of the corporate world.
On Tuesday (5th March 2019), the Switzerland Federal Tax Administration (FTA) agreed to reveal data about Geodesic Ltd and its three directors. The FTA would also share data related to Aadhi Enterprises, a Chennai based realty firm established in 2014. The Income tax office raided offices of Sunil Khetpalia and Maneesh Parmar (linked with Aadhi) and alleged money laundering and benami holdings of several politicians.
Details shared by the FTA about Geodesic could include investments made by three directors, Prashant Sharad Mulekar, Pankajkumar Onkar Srivastava and Kiran Kulkarni. The data could include banking details, transactions, and investments made in Swiss bank accounts.
Geodesic, a Mumbai based software services firm was a listed firm but majorly known as the acquiring company of Chandamama, the popular children magazine started in July 1947.
During the acquisition, it was made to believe that Chandamama could be completely digitized. The deal was struck in mid 2006 with Rs 10.02 crores exchanging hands for a 94% stake.
Geodesic in 2007 remained a headline grabber and its Managing Director Kiran Kulkarni explaining in a then interaction said that the company had been scouting for deals worth $15-20 million. Geodesic by mid-2007 had acquired firms such as Bangalore-based Picopeta Simputers (built handheld devices) and Hong Kong-based software firm Engage Solutions.
Growth for this firm was estimated at 23.3% with a consolidated revenue of Rs 621 crores. By 2007, the company had 14 offices spread across India, U.S., U.K., Sweden, Hong Kong, UAE and Uruguay and it also planned to strengthen presence in Africa and the Middle East.
Call it abject failure of corporate governance or a scam but by 2014 Geodesic was on the opposite side of growth. The company ran out of options when it had to repay Rs 1200 crores in liabilities towards Foreign Currency Convertible bonds by 2014. Five directors of the company were booked in July 2014 for cheating investors to the tune of Rs 720 crores. The Bombay High Court in a ruling in mid 2014 passed a winding-up order.
Chandamama, the popular magazine that once enjoyed the status of being read by most literate Indians bore the brunt of Geodesic's mis-governance. In fact, Bollywood Actor Amitabh Bachchan claimed himself as the magazine's fan and launched the magazine's 60th anniversary edition in 2008.
The acquisition by Geodesic sadly has done the magazine no good. The magazine remains shut, the idea of a planned digital edition remains shelved, and even the website of Chandamama has been non-operational for a few years now. Readers, subscribers were previously keen to read and even wait for the latest issues. However, there appears no confirmed answer on whether Chandamama will be ever revived.
According to an Indian Express story, stories, patents, magazines, official data of Chandamama has been locked away in over 100 gunny bags at Geodesic's office at SEEPZ Mumbai. The Bombay HC appointed liquidator has the possession of most of these documents and Intellectual Properties.
Data from Swiss authorities could help law enforcement agencies track the source of money. However, this alone cannot bring back the once popular magazine.
Also, the intent from Swiss authorities does not imply that data on Geodesic could land in Indian shores. Swiss officials claim that the FTA decision on sharing of data can be appealed within 30 days.
Previously, the FTA's decision to provide data on financial dealings on October 30, 2018 related to Geodesic was challenged. But the Swiss officials claim that the appeal could not sustain and hence they have re-opened the case.
There is only hope for scores of readers and investors that this time around the Swiss officials do narrate a good tale. Good enough to bring back Chandamama and the money that many investors have lost.