A Chinese company connected with the Adani Group is involved with building critical infrastructure in India. The firm, PMC Projects (India) Private Limited, has been developing seaports, container terminals, airstrips, electricity transmission lines and railway tracks, among other public utilities. It operates from premises owned by Adani Enterprises, the flagship of the Adani Group, but is owned by Chang Chien-Ting (also known as Morris Chang), son of Chang Chung-Ling, who has been a director of many Adani companies over the years and is said to be a business associate of the ‘elusive’ Vinod Adani.
The involvement of a Chinese-owned company in the establishment of critical infrastructure in India raises questions about national security. Despite being questioned about this, the ‘nationalist’ government of Narendra Modi has responded with a deafening silence.
Allegations have been made by an Indian government investigative agency against part of the Adani Group. The companies concerned have been accused of ‘over-invoicing’, a practice in which goods are routed through an intermediary that artificially infates the price in order to create an improper advantage for the main company concerned. The alleged over-invoicing of imported equipment was said to have been undertaken by three companies: Adani Power Maharashtra Limited (APML), Adani Power Rajasthan Limited (APRL) and Maharashtra Eastern Grid Power Transmission Company Limited (MEGPTCL).
The allegations have been made by the Ministry of Finance’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the intelligence wing of the Ministry. They are outlined in a show-cause notice sent by the DRI to various Adani Group companies and to Vinod Adani, older brother of Gautam Adani. It alleges that an entity named Electrogen Infra FZE (EIF), registered in the United Arab Emirates and controlled by Vinod Adani, acted as an intermediary invoicing agent for PMC Projects (India) Private Limited (PMC) and MEGPTCL while importing machinery for installing electricity transmission lines. The DRI alleged that, while the consignment of equipment came directly to PMC and MEGPTCL from original equipment manufacturers in China and South Korea, EIF, the intermediary, inflated the amounts shown in invoices to PMC and MEGPTCL by up to 400% more than the amounts in the invoices submitted by the actual suppliers to EIF.
The Hindenburg Research report on the Adani Group, published on 24 January 2023, which made explosive allegations about the group’s practices, discussed PMC’s activities in some detail. In this article, AdaniWatch unearths the connection between PMC and the Adani Group and goes beyond the findings of Hindenburg Research.
PMC was incorporated on 3 May 2005 in Ahmedabad as a 100% subsidiary of Project Monitoring and Construction Limited (PM&CL), a private company registered in Mauritius. PM&CL held 9999 shares in PMC, while Malay Mahadevia held a single share.
A dentist by profession, Mahadevia, the first director of PMC, is a close friend and professional associate of Gautam Adani. He has been associated with the Adani Group from the early-1990s. He has served on the boards of directors of several group companies. On 31 January 2023, Mahadevia was on the board of 12 Adani Group companies and GSPC LNG Ltd, a Gujarat government company in which the Adani group holds a 5.46% stake. An article published in June 2022 in The Economic Times said that ‘Mahadevia is, in many ways, Adani’s alter-ego. He’s still perceived to be Adani’s trusted right-hand man’.
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Though the Adani Group never described PMC as a ‘group company’, PMC’s connection with the group was clear from its inception. An interview published in November 2012 by the constructionworld.in website with the then-CEO of PMC started with the sentence:‘PMC Projects is the brainchild of Malay Mahadevia’. The registered email address of PMC used a domain name of the Adani Group in the company’s annual returns between 2006 and 2012. It would prima facie appear that PMC was a company in the Adani Group even if it was not formally described as such.
Regulatory filings made by PMC show that on 1 July 2006, Project Monitoring and Construction Ltd Mauritius transferred its 100% holding in PMC to Gudami International Pte Ltd (GIPL).
GIPL is a Singapore-registered company, closely associated with the Adani Group. During the DRI’s investigations into another case of alleged over-invoicing (involving the import of power equipment and alleged misuse of tax concessions while exporting cut and polished diamonds and gold jewellery) the DRI mentioned the name of this company. Citing regulatory filings in different jurisdictions, the DRI stated that GIPL was directly connected with the Adani Group and that its director, a Chinese national named Chang Chung-Ling, is a business associate of Vinod Adani and has been a director in many offshore companies associated with the Adani Group.
A screenshot from GIPL’s 2004-05 audited financial statements.
During the financial year 2006-07, GIPL transferred its holdings in PMC to Gudami International (Mauritius) Ltd (GIML).
On page 51 of the 2001-02 annual report of Adani Exports Limited (later renamed Adani Enterprises Limited), Gudami International was described as an ‘associate entity’.
The official website of PMC Projects (India) Pvt Ltd, www.pmcprojects.com, is not operational now. However, the archives of this website on the internet throw up interesting revelations. The snapshot of the website archived on 29 May 2016 reads: ‘PMC Projects have (sic) worked closely with developers and has developed India’s largest private port as a project management consultant from concept to construction to management at Mundra, Gujarat. Additionally, the company has also carried out significant work in operating ports at Dahej, and Hazira in India. PMC Projects is also in the process of developing berths at major ports located at Kandla in Gujarat, Mormugao in Goa and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. PMC Projects is also providing Project Management Consulting services for the overseas projects such as coal terminal expansion at Abbot Point, Australia, Carmichael Coal Mine Project and North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR Project).’
Each of the above projects is an Adani one. The archived pages of this website therefore make it clear that PMC handles only Adani Group’s projects.
In the older version of the PMC website, on the opening page, there used to be ‘links to other websites’, which led to the page depicted in the screenshot below:
PMC’s website was operational until April 2019. What prompted the company to shut down its website is not known.
According to PMC’s balance sheet for the financial year 2011-12, Gudami International (Mauritius) Ltd changed its name to PMC Infra Ltd.
In October 2013, PMC changed its registered office address to a building owned by the Adani Group. In February 2015, PMC signed a ‘leave and licence’ agreement with Adani Enterprises Ltd and moved its office to its present address in a building called AMDC, owned by Adani Enterprises, in the Shantigram township developed by the Adani Group.
According to the last filing with the Indian government’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs, PMC Projects (India) Pvt Ltd is still owned by the Mauritius-registered holding company PMC Infra Ltd.
On 8 February 2019, the Government of India amended a section in the Companies Act 2013 and made it mandatory for companies to disclose the names of the entity’s ‘significant beneficial owners’. A part of the amendment reads: ‘… where the member of the reporting company is a body corporate (whether incorporated or registered in India or abroad), other than a limited liability partnership, and the individual,–– (a) holds majority stake in that member; or (b) holds majority stake in the ultimate holding company (whether incorporated or registered in India or abroad) of that member…’.
This amendment obliged PMC Infra Ltd to disclose the name of its beneficial owner. On 28 September 2020, Chang Chien-Ting (also known as Morris Chang) declared that he was the 100% beneficial owner of PMC Projects (India) Ltd through the Mauritius-registered PMC Infra Ltd. He is the son of Chang Chung-Ling, who, as stated above, was a director of several Adani Group companies, and whose name has appeared in connection with the coal-procurement investigation, and with the story on an Adani entity’s association with trade with North Korea. The disclosure form identifies Chang Chien-Ting as a citizen of the Republic of China.
The Chinese ownership of an Indian company closely associated with the Adani Group and operating from premises owned by Adani Enterprises Ltd raises questions about the repeated claims of the Adani Group that the business is helping PM Modi’s nation-building efforts and his attempts to make India self-reliant (atmanirbhar). These are questions that opposition parties have repeatedly put to the Modi government, most pointedly in a series of questions by the Congress party. Yet when it comes to the security implications of a Chinese firm’s involvement in critical infrastructure projects, including seaports, port terminals, railway tracks and electricity transmission lines, the silence of the Modi government has been deafening.
On 27 March 2023, the Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition filed by the DRI to quash the order of a tribunal that gave a clean chit to Adani Group entities accused of over-invoicing imports of power-generating equipment. The petition was filed by the DRI against an order of the Customs, Excise, and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT). In September 2021, AdaniWatch published an article in which insiders wondered whether the Indian government had been undermining its own investigation into the over-invoicing allegations.
The author is an independent journalist based in New Delhi with editing contribution by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.