Indian police personnel stand in front of the regional office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) prior to a protest staged by members of the Karnataka State National Congress Party, in Bangalore on October 26, 2018. - Indian opposition leaders led angry nationwide protests on October 26 over alleged political interference in the country's main police agency which has plunged it into turmoil. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)
By:Pramod Thomas

Banknote printer De La Rue, one of Britain’s oldest listed companies, has said that it had been made aware of an investigation by Indian authorities into a former Indian finance secretary Arvind Mayaram in which the historical activities of De La Rue in India prior to 2016 have been implicated.

In its statement to the London stock market, De La Rue said that it had not served the Indian government or its central bank “in any capacity” since 2016. The company confirmed it had supplied security threads for banknotes in India prior to 2016.

“The company believes that there is no merit to the allegations that relate to De La Rue, and is seeking legal advice in this regard,” the company said.

De La Rue said that it had not received any official communication about the investigation into Mayaram from the Central Bureau of Investigation in India, but had learned about it from publicly-available sources.

Earlier this month, the CBI searched the premises of Mayaram in Delhi and Jaipur.

The Economic Times reported that the CBI registered a case on charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy, abuse of official position and corruption against Mayaram, alongside unnamed officials at the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India.

Officials said that an FIR was filed against him and De La Rue for alleged corruption in the supply of exclusive colour shift security thread for Indian bank notes.

The CBI alleged in its FIR that Mayaram, the UK-based company, and unidentified officials of the finance ministry and RBI, hatched a criminal conspiracy to extend undue favour to the firm.

The agency also said that during his term as finance secretary, Mayaram granted an ‘illegal’ three year extension to the ‘expired contract’ for supplying exclusive colour shift security thread without the mandatory security clearances from the home ministry.

He did not inform the then finance minister about the extensions either, alleged the agency. The FIR said that this was the fourth such extension.

The FIR said that the centre had entered into an agreement with the UK-based company for the supply of colour shift security thread for Indian bank notes in 2004. This contract was extended four times until 2015.

The contract stated that the company had developed an exclusive India-specific green to blue colour shift clear text MRT machine-readable security thread. This was developed for use in Indian banknote paper as a security feature. The company held exclusive manufacturing rights for the same.

The CBI found that the company did not have a valid patent when the Centre entered into this agreement.

Mayaram, a 1978-batch retired IAS officer, is currently principal economic advisor to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

Last month, he had joined Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra during its Rajasthan leg.

(with PTI inputs)