Manipal swindling case: Attempt made to launder siphoned off funds by investing in startup

BENGALURU The Manipal swindling case, involving the embezzlement of INR 70 crore, which has ensnared quite a few people, is continuing to see more skeletons tumble out of the cupboards of the accused. The case has been revealing more gems with each passing day. The accused had managed to launder some of the money they swindled by investing in a startup that was sold off to a Europe Assistance French company profitably.

Sandeep Gururaj, the main accused, got associated with Norte Technologies India Pvt Ltd founded in 2015 by his associate Praveen Surendiran. In 2016-17 he invested INR 2 crore as an angel investor. Gururaj then joined the board of Norte and traveled extensively with Surendiran to build the business.

Surendiran later sold Norte to a French group Europe Assistance in May 2018 for $1 million (about INR 7 crore at the then foreign exchange rate). It has been reliably established through investigation of the interactions between Gururaj and Surendiran that it was indeed a case of profiting from the ill-gotten wealth that was siphoned off from Manipal Group.

Norte Technologies provides after-sales services of cars in India with brand 21North in at least 10 cities in India, including Chandigarh, Delhi-NCR, Jaipur, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Kochi. Norte Technologies was acquired by the French group’s subsidiary and is now completely-owned by them. Sandeep Gururaj was also appointed as Director in North Technologies in 2016 and holding shares as well.

The MD of 21North and ONB Technologies, a Singapore-based company, fully owned by Europ Assistance, Praveen Surendiran and other directors such as Sree Kumar, Madhu Jindal & Nitin Mehra are being investigated for their role in the case. Praveen was regularly in touch with the main accused Sandeep Gururaj and had financial dealings with him.

It may be recalled, a case of misappropriation was registered with the Cubbon Park police station, Bengaluru and the main accused has been in judicial custody since December 2018. Investigations are going on and new revelations are being unearthed every day.

It has been reliably learnt that Surendiran enjoys clout in the highest corridors of power and that he has been pulling strings to escape the morass he is in.

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