Travails of a businessman who took 34 years to get rid off the tag of a bank cheater

Last Updated: Tue, Jul 16, 2019 14:09 hrs
Banking

New Delhi: After fighting the legal battle for almost 34 years in a Delhi court, businessman Rajender Singh Sethia, who succeeded in proving himself innocent in two bank fraud cases, said, "justice delayed is better than never."

Sethia, once described as the "world's biggest bankrupt", told IANS when Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Singh Rajawat acquitted him in the 1982-83 bank fraud case he could not control his emotions.

"In view of the evidence on record, I am satisfied that prosecution has miserably failed to prove the allegations against the accused persons as no admissible evidence has come on record and benefit of doubt must go to the accused," magistrate Rajawat said in its March 19 order, and acquitted Sethia and co-accused Babu Lal Bengani of charges dealing with cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and others.

Sethia had got first relief from the court on December 15, 2016 when the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Central Delhi acquitted him in another bank fraud case.

"Justice has been done. My name got cleared as an accused in the case. Now I can walk with clean hand," he told this agency.

Describing the 34-year trial as period full of pain and suffering, Sethia said he felt insulted when people described him as crook, fraud or cheater. "Now, I can tell them that I am innocent," he said, but expressed his sorrow at losing almost 34 years in fighting the case.

"My 34 years have been wasted in trial. But I am happy to get justice from the court. Justice delayed is better than never," Sethia told IANS.

He thanked his son and daughter for supporting him financially and motivating him to fight the legal battle. However, he urged for expediting the court proceedings so that people didn't suffer for years awaiting justice.

Sethia was Chairman of London-based ESAL Commodities Ltd since March 1977 and other co-accused Bengani director of the company. Sethia was in control of all the financial matters of the group companies.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against them alleging that they defrauded the Indian banks in United Kingdom in 1985.

Sethia returned to India in December 1984. He was arrested on March 1, 1985 and released on bail on February 13, 1987.

On his 17-month stay in Tihar Jail, he said conditions were not good at that time but he adjusted with them.

Sethia welcomed the two court orders and said the investigating agency had implicated him in false cases.

The CBI had alleged that Sethia with help of his employees cheated the London branch of the Central Bank of India and obtained loans on the basis of forged shipping documents.

The agency also alleged that Sethia induced Punjab National Bank (PNB) to extend loans in respect of alleged contracts with Nigerian National Supply Corporation and other African organisation that didn't have sufficient foreign exchange reserves and the loans were obtained by making false representations regarding the value of the assets held by him.

ESAL Commodities Ltd was in a bad financial condition and required huge amounts to lower the dues outstanding against it.

Sethia in his defence said all credit facilities to ESAL Commodities Ltd were duly sanctioned and approved by the head offices of PNB and the Central Bank of India at New Delhi. All the transactions were fully secured by credible solvent securities, he added.

Sethia said the value of securities offered were many times the credit facilities granted by the two banks to ESAL Group of Companies.

In December 1983, he argued that on account of coup in Nigeria and Sudan the company suffered financial difficulties and due to revolt in Nigeria, it ceased operations there in January 1984. Even at that time, banks were fully secured as many assets of Sethia were held as security by these banks, he added.

The CBI had alleged the accused persons caused huge losses to the banks. Relying on the testimonies of witnesses, the court said no financial loss was caused to the banks and they had received all the amounts.

The court also noted that the banks had not filed any complaint against him.

Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be reached at amiya.k@ians.in