Shashi Shankar secretly happy at WOM's fate

Vol 20, PW 8 (12 Jan 17) People & Policy

Don't be surprised if ONGC director Shashi Shankar is secretly happy over news that the Indian arm of Houston-based oilfield equipment manufacturer Worldwide Oilfield Machine (WOM) had over Rs10cr ($1.5m) in hoarded cash seized by tax officials.

Who could blame him? WOM is widely believed to have played a prominent role in Shankar's suspension in February 2015 as director technology and field services when he was accused of "gross misconduct" in a tender where WOM was a bidder to procure 21 Blow Out Preventers (BOPs) eight years ago. Shankar, a hot favourite to replace DK Sarraf as ONGC chairman when he retires in September, was suspended for five months over the allegations before his reinstatement and exoneration in June last year (2016) by the anti-corruption CVC.

Today, it's WOM firmly in the spotlight after tax officials on December 14 raided 15 lockers at a Pune branch of Bank of Maharashtra. Astonishingly they discovered that Rs8cr ($1.3m) of the cash was in newly-issued Rs2000 notes.

Astonishing because when Narendra Modi infamously scrapped Rs1000 and Rs500 notes on November 8 everyone was told they could legitimately exchange a maximum Rs4000 from old notes to new by December 15, later raised to Rs4500 then reduced to Rs2000. Any bank deposits over Rs2.5 lakhs ($3700) invite scrutiny.

For companies cash withdrawals were limited to Rs50,000/week.

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