Hyderabad: Weeks after union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari refuted reports of a Swedish commercial manufacturer gifting him a luxury bus for his daughter’s wedding in 2016, fresh reports now reveal that his denial was an outright lie.
An investigation by India’s Confluence Media, along with Swedish SVT and Germany’s ZDF, had revealed that the Swedish truck and bus maker Scania paid bribes to win bus contracts in seven Indian states between 2013 and 2016.
News agency ANI, quoting the investigation, reported that Scania delivered a luxury bus in November 2016 to a company with ties to union minister Nitin Gadkari’s sons.
SVT accused Gadkari of using the company’s luxury bus for personal use.
Within days, not only did the minister’s office refuted these reports calling them “malicious, fabricated and baseless”, but Gadkari also sent legal defamation notices to Swedish news channel SVT and German broadcaster ZDF for their reports.
Caravan Magazine, in its investigation, found out that a Scania Metrolink, the luxury bus in soup, was parked inside a factory compound owned by Purti Solar Systems Private Limited, a company associated with Gadkari in 2018. He was also accused of illegally acquiring that plot and mortgaging it to secure a massive loan.
The bus bore the license number “MH31 EM 1530”, the Caravan report states and the transport ministry’s database clearly revealed that the bus was a “Scania Metro Link HD 410 IB6,” registered on 6 December 2016.
The SVT report stated that email communications between Scania managers in India and Sweden showed that “the delivery of the bus to the minister was important for the Swedish company’s future in India.”
A follow-up report published after Gadkari’s denial quoted an email from a Scania manager, “The Minister of Transport has been waiting for this bus. It is very important that delivery takes place in mid-December because he wants to use the bus for an important family event.” Gadkari’s daughter, Ketki, got married on 4 December, two days before the bus was registered. Her reception took place on 8 December.
Not only that, but the report also found that Scania had sold the bus “via a dealer, to a company with close links to the Gadkari family.” The company’s press manager and senior advisor was quoted saying that the company had sold a Metrolink HD bus to a Bengaluru-based dealer, TransPro Motors Private Limited, in 2016.
He added that according to Scania’s own “investigations,” TransPro “rented out” the bus to another Indian company, Sudarshan Hospitality Management Services Private Limited.
Documents filed before the ministry of corporate affairs show that Sudarshan Hospitality is inextricably linked to two companies owned by Sarang and Nikhil Gadkari — Manas Agro Industries & Infrastructure Limited and Cian Agro Industries & Infrastructure Limited, where both of them are directors.
Caravan’s report revealed that the certificate recorded the owner’s name as “*/* *R*N*P*O * O*O*S *V* *T*”, which M/s TransPro Motors Pvt Ltd, the local dealership that bought the bus from Scania. “There could be no doubt that this was the same bus,” Kaushal Shroff of Carvan writes.
The report, in detail, also reveals several inconsistencies in TransPro’s and Sudarshan Hospitality’s financial accounts from 2017, regarding Scania’s luxury bus.
Further, a visit to its registered office in Bengaluru revealed that the TransPro Motors’ office had shut down, and a Scania office stood in its place, the report revealed.