In yet another startling revelation, the embattled Amrapali Group gave away flats and penthouses as fees to lawyers representing it at various judicial forums, forensic auditors informed the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Amrapali lawyers accepting fees from their clients in ”kind” is in violation of the law, they said.
The bench said it is prohibited under the Advocates Act and no lawyers can accept the fees in kind.
Hearing a batch of home buyers’ petitions, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit ordered all the directors of Jotindra Steel and Tubes Ltd, a supplier to the Amrapali group, to appear before the forensic auditors over the next three days.
Akhil Sureka, a Managing Director in Jotindra Steel and Tubes Ltd, a public listed company, was found to be a director in group companies of Amrapali in the forensic audit.
The court-appointed forensic auditors detected siphoning of over Rs. 400 crores by Akhil Surekha, who according to them, is an authorised signatory of Amrapali in banks since 2016 onwards.
Forensic auditors Pawan Agrawal and Ravi Bhatia, without taking any names, told the bench that some lawyers appearing for Amrapali Group in the top court in contravention of the Advocates Act, have taken flats and penthouses from their client.
“I request the lawyers, who have received the flats, from Amrapali to return the property as soon as possible,” Mr Agrawal told the jam-packed courtroom.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Akhil Surekha, told the bench that he was duped by Amrapali and it owes him Rs. 112 crore for the material they have supplied for construction of projects.
He said that after Amrapali Group ran into trouble, it transferred FSI worth Rs. 80 crore to him which was hived off to the third party for development. Floor Space Index (FSI) is the ratio of the built-up space on a plot to the area of the plot.
The forensic auditors intervened and pointed out that this Rs. 80 crore again landed back into the accounts of group companies of the realty firm through different companies.
To this, the bench said, “You might be a creditor of first its kind. Who for recovering the money invested more money into the company running in trouble. For us, it seems that you have created cobweb of companies to siphon off the funds from Amrapali. The FSI cannot be transferred under RERA Act”.
Mr Singh said that Akhil Surekha remained a director of Amrapali companies for just 15 days in June 2016 and then existed from those firms and even he was discharged from being a guarantor in the banks.
The bench asked how did the banks discharge him from being a guarantor and sought details of all the documents by which he was relieved.
“A supplier to the company cannot be a director and authorised signatory of the same firm,” the bench said and directed that all the directors appear before the forensic auditors with all the details of transactions and documents.
The bench also asked senior advocate Gaurav Bhatia, appearing for Amrapali Group to explain how a company named ”Stunning Construction Ltd” was floated to pay the income taxes and advances amounting to Rs. 234 crores to the directors and their family members and other higher officials of the Group.
The hearing in the matter remained inconclusive and would continue on May 8.
Yesterday, the top court had said that Amrapali Group has committed a “first-degree crime” by cheating thousands of home buyers and no matter how powerful the people behind this mess they will be booked and prosecuted.
The court had said that it cannot believe the justification given by Amrapali for alleged diversion of funds of over Rs. 3,500 crores, looking at its dubious conduct.
On February 28, the apex court had allowed the Delhi police to arrest Amrapali group CMD Anil Sharma and two directors on a complaint that home-buyers of their various housing projects were cheated and duped of their funds.
The top court, which is seized of several pleas of home-buyers seeking possession of around 42,000 flats booked in projects of the Amrapali group, also ordered attachment of personal properties of the CMD and directors — Shiv Priya and Ajay Kumar.
The trio, under the detention of Uttar Pradesh police and kept in a hotel at Noida since October 9 last year by the top court for not complying with its orders, was in for a shock when the court ordered the arrest on a plea by Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police saying that it wanted to quiz them in a separate cheating case.