Adani mining giant faces financial fraud claims as it bids for Australian coal loan

A global mining giant seeking public funds to develop one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia has been accused of fraudulently siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money into overseas tax havens.

Indian conglomerate the Adani Group is expecting a legal decision in the “near future” in connection with allegations it inflated invoices for an electricity project in India to shift huge sums of money into offshore bank accounts.

Details of the alleged 15bn rupee (US$235m) fraud are contained in an Indian customs intelligence notice obtained by the Guardian, excerpts of which are published for the first time here.

The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) file, compiled in 2014, maps out a complex money trail from India through South Korea and Dubai, and eventually to an offshore company in Mauritius allegedly controlled by Vinod Shantilal Adani, the older brother of the billionaire Adani Group chief executive, Gautam Adani.

Vinod Adani is the director of four companies proposing to build a railway line and expand a coal port attached to Queensland’s vast Carmichael mine project.

The proposed mine, which would be Australia’s largest, has been the source of years of intense controversy, legal challenges and protests over its possible environmental impact.

Expanding the coal port to accommodate the mine will require dredging an estimated 1.1m cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Coal from the mine will also produce annual emissions equivalent to those of Malaysia or Austria according to one study.

One of the few remaining hurdles for the Adani Group is to raise finance to build the mine as well as a railway line to transport coal from the site to a port at Abbot Point on the Queenslandcoast.

To finance the railway Adani hopes to persuade the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (Naif), an Australian government-backed investment fund, to loan the Adani Group or a related entity about US$700m (A$900m) in public money.

While it awaits the decision on the loan, in Delhi the company is also expecting the judgment of a legal authority appointed under Indian financial crime laws in connection to allegations it siphoned borrowed money overseas.

The Adani Group fully denies the accusations, which it has challenged in submissions to the authority.

The investigation

News of the investigation was first reported in India three years ago, but the full customs intelligence document reveals forensic details of the workings of the alleged fraud which have not been publicly revealed.

The 97-page file accuses the Adani Group of ordering hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment for an electricity project in western India’s Maharashtra state using a front company in Dubai.

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