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Now, fisheries minister stumbles on corruption net

An Andhra-based businessman accuses Anand V Asnotikar of duping his company of Rs 100 crore and misusing public office for personal gains, the minister brands bizman 'mentally unstable'

The list of tainted ministers in the state cabinet seems to be growing longer by the day. And Fisheries Minister Anand V Asnotikar is the latest (15th) entrant in the league of leaders who are either accused of or facing corruption charges.



At least 13 ministers have been accused of graft so far, excluding Home Minister R Ashok and Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani against whom the Lokayukta Police has filed FIRs in connection with land scams.

An Andhra-based businessman has accused Asnotikar of cheating his company of Rs 100 crore and misusing his ministerial powers for personal gain.

Verumuri Krishna Prasad, the managing director of Sai Annapoorna Bio-Proteins Private Limited, has also accused Asnotikar of misusing the name of his company and procuring government plots at a paltry rate, bleeding the exchequer of crores of rupees.

Prasad has filed a complaint against Asnotikar with the Lokayukta police seeking a detailed probe into the irregularities.

Prasad had also filed a fraud and misappropriation case (cr.no. 597/10) against Asnotikar at the Patamata police station, Vijayawada, on September 1, 2010.
 
According to Prasad's complaint with the Lokayukta police, he had submitted a tender to the Karnataka Fisheries Development Corporation (KFDC) to obtain a licence to set up fish-meal plant at Karwar in 2007.

Since he was the highest bidder with a fee of Rs 2 crore per annum, the KFDC awarded him the licence and eventually an MoU was inked.

Asnotikar, who had allegedly bagged the same licence for a paltry Rs 9 lakh per annum, floated a fictitious company with a similar name as Prasad's company and started a plant in Goa.
 
He christened his company Sai Annapoorna Bio-Proteins Private Limited (Goa) and made his mother Sublata Asnotikar its director. He was helped in all this by Prasad's brother, Shyam, who got lured by quick money.

Prasad came to know about the company in Goa, which carried his banner without his permission and issued a legal notice seeking explanation, but in vain.

Prasad also came to know that Asnotikar had imported machinery from China for the Goa plant, but in the name of Prasad's company. "While the machinery was delivered to Asnotikar's company in Goa, my firm had to pay the duty," said Prasad.

The records show that Asnotikar even gave a wrong declaration before the customs officials to get the delivery of the shipment, thus cheating the government, Prasad added in his complaint.

"Asnotikar not only stole my company name, but also started stealing my equipment in nexus with my brother. Last year, Shyam stole fish oil products from my company worth Rs 6 crore and exported them to China and gobbled up the amount," Prasad added.

According to Prasad, Asnotikar procured two plots from his the fisheries department in Karwar and Gangoli at a nominal lease of Rs 50,000 per annum for his company.

Prasad said that he had applied for leasing the same land for Rs 2 crore through the tender process, but Asnotikar had managed to bag the land using his clout in the department.
 
A notice was issued to Asnotikar seeking an explanation for all the irregularities, but when he failed to reply, Prasad filed a case with the local police against the minister and others at Patamata police station, Vijayawada, on September 1, 2010.

Soon after receiving the showcause notice, Asnotikar changed the name of his company from Sai Annapoorna Bio-Proteins Private Limited (Goa) to Panda Panda Bio-Proteins on August 25, 2010.

Prasad added that Asnotikar even violated the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board  (KSPCB ) bylaws and continued to run his company despite a notice from the pollution control panel to shut down the plant.

"These frauds have brought my business to a standstill and also caused a loss of around Rs 100 crore to my company," Prasad said in his complaint. Apart from the financial loss, the company's reputation among the shareholders and business partners is at stake, he said.

The other side
Reacting to the allegations, Anand Asnotikar said, "It is a family dispute between two brothers and he has nothing to do with it. I am ready to face any enquiry, as there is no truth in the allegations.

My only concern is towards the plant as lots of dependents, including fishermen, are suffering due to ongoing allegations and counter-allegations. I want this issue to be resolved at the earliest."

As per the fisheries department records, the Asnotikar's company owes
Rs 3.5 crore to the department. If they fail to pay the dues within a month, the department is going to take necessary action.

Asked about Prasad's allegation of misusing official power, the minister said that he do not even know any Krishna Prasad. "I think he is mentally unstable to make such allegations," he said.

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