DK Sarraf 'gatekeeper' in $10m Imperial probe

Vol 20, PW 12 (09 Mar 17) People & Policy

Already widely criticised, ONGC's acquisition of UK-listed Siberian explorer Imperial Energy in 2009 is under fresh scrutiny.

Until now anger has centred on how it was duped into paying $2.1bn for an asset that by general consensus was worth no more than $500m. Not to mention damaging corruption allegations against high-profile Russian and Indian personalities who forced through this questionable deal.

Today the focus has shifted to impropriety at the heart of Imperial post-acquisition by OVL. Under scrutiny is Sanjeev Kakran, ONGC general manager and presently Executive Officer or 'gatekeeper' to chairman DK Sarraf.

This report learns the oil ministry's anti-corruption or 'vigilance' wing under joint secretary refineries Sandip Poundrik is investigating Kakran's role in the payment of $7m-$10m in commission as the company's 'Chief Adviser, HR, Contracts & Legal' in the Siberian capital Tomsk. Under investigation is Kakran's links with a nexus of corrupt Russian employees, dubious local middlemen and a high-level regional politician.

"Kakran had unlimited power at the company (Imperial)," reads a ministry note. "(He) influenced the choice of personnel, the budget, and controlled commissions through the tender system." It adds: "Information received from special check-up operations prove Kakran's involvement in the scheme of commission-sharing obtained from contractors approved by the tenders' committee." On January 13, 2009, OVL announced its acquisition of Imperial Energy for $2.1bn in a deal derided as a waste of money - most recently by Dharmendra Pradhan.