Hindu leader convicted on fraud and obstruction charges in US

WASHINGTON: A Hindu leader, who headed the now defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia, has been convicted on 34 felony counts following two weeks of jury trial in the US.

Sentencing of Annamalai Annamalai, also known as Commander Selvam or Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar, is now scheduled on November 13.

“This defendant traded on his perceived religious authority and spiritual powers to cheat the faithful who believed in him,” said US Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

“The jury saw through his deception, and he is being held accountable for his fraud,” he said.

“Annamalai Annamalai clearly took advantage of his religious standing in the community as well as the individuals who respected and revered him,” stated Veronica F Hyman- Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation.

“He used deceit and fraud, to circumvent the bankruptcy courts and to collect money for his own personal benefit,” the IRS official said.

According to US Attorney, the indictment and other information presented in court, Annamalai, 49, generated income through the Hindu Temple of Georgia by charging fees to his followers in exchange for providing spiritual or related services.

In a typical transaction, a follower agreed to purchase a particular service for a communicated price, and provided a credit card number by telephone to guarantee payment.

Annamalai caused the followers’ credit card numbers to be charged on multiple occasions, in excess of the agreed amount and without authorisation.

If the followers disputed the charges with their respective credit card companies, Annamalai submitted false documentation to the credit card companies in support of the unauthorized charges, which formed the basis for his conviction on bank fraud charges, the chargesheet alleged.

The income generated by the temple through these credit card charges was used to fund the lifestyle of Annamalai and his family, who owned or controlled numerous homes and real properties, luxury vehicles, and bank accounts in India.

Annamalai was convicted of willfully filing a false tax return for the 2007 year, for failing to disclose his financial interest in foreign bank accounts held in India.

He was convicted of bankruptcy fraud offenses in connection with the temple’s petition for bankruptcy protection in August 2009. He was also convicted on three counts of obstruction and false statements in connection with the grand jury probe and the bankruptcy proceeding.

At $300 per couple, NRI franchisee serves breakfast of champagnes on Wall Street

WASHINGTON: Conventional wisdom suggests breakfast is the most important meal of the day. No one has proposed that it be the most expensive. Certainly not at Denny’s — America’s “fast casual” pancake house whose 1600 outlets have catered to the country’s middle class for over half a century — with its headquarters in the aptly-named Spartanburg in South Carolina.

But an Indian family that came to America with $300 in its pocket has decided to turn conventional wisdom on its head. The Marwahs think $300 plus taxes (approximately Rs 20,000) is an affordable breakfast price for two in wealthy and weighty. In a sign that the roaring twenties may be getting ready to repeat themselves a century later, their first Denny’s in the Big Apple announced a “Grand Cru Slam” brunch special for its opening this past weekend.

Besides the regular Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast (which ordinary comes at $5.99 elsewhere in the country), the Grand Cru Slam comes with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon Premier Cru champagne (which alone costs $300 in some NYC restaurants) and a “bartender high-five,” which usually comes free.

The Marwahs are a byword for franchises in California and Texas, where they run 22 Denny’s and an assortment of Subways, 7-Elevens, and Popeye’s, employing more than a 1000 people. It is their first foray into New York City. Indeed, it is the first Denny’s in Manhattan, a borough so hip and famous that it lends its name to a drink.

The Wall Street bull with tourists around for pictures on Broadway, New York City. (Getty Images photo)

Hip is not a term you’d use to describe Denny’s, which started as a coffee and donut outlet in the 1950s and became famous as an all-night diner chain that never shut its doors (many Denny’s were built without lock even) at nights or on holidays, and serves greasy, inexpensive breakfast.

Gurbax Rai Marwah (originally from Faridkot, Punjab) came to the US in 1971 after having served in the Indian Army’s Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers followed by a stint in the Central Public Works Department in New Delhi. Working as a Greyhound bus driver, running a car wash, leasing a Texaco gas station, and refurbishing and turning over homes were just some of the things he did before he caught the desi franchising fever with a 7-Eleven in the mid-80s. He bought his first Denny’s in 1995, and there has been no looking back since.

But the upscale Denny’s on Wall Street is the brainchild of his MBA degree-holder son Rahul and law graduate daughter Ritu, who are taking over some of the responsibilities of the family firm DenCo. They spend months studying the Manhattan market, working with image consultants and interior designers, before coming up with a swish diner lined with flat screen TVs, leather booths, and a copper-stamped ceiling, near the financial district’s Spruce Street

(Getty Images photo)

“You’re not just in a Denny’s — you’re in a Manhattan Denny’s. I thought we would stick out like a sore thumb if we looked like the average Denny’s,” Rahul Marwah said of the spruced-up, souped-up diner as the moolah-sniffing media headlined the opening over the weekend. “Denny’s aimed at 1% opens in New York with $300 Grand Slam,” read the streamer on CNN Money. From Bloomberg to Wall Street Journal, the opening got wall-to-wall coverage.

Not everything on the Manhattan Denny’s menu is off the charts or wallets. Denny’s loyalists can still find their favourites such as pancakes and hash browns at the same reasonable prices. Besides, one can also feast on unlimited Prosecco at the bar for much less than the 2003 Dom Perignon. But it doesn’t come with the bartender’s high-five.

If enough people order the Dom Perignon, it will be the Marwahs who will be high-fiving each other.

NRI suspected of setting Pujari on Moranis, SRK

MUMBAI: Investigations into the recent firing at a film producer’s bungalow and alleged threats to several Bollywood personalities from a fugitive gangster appear to be pointing to a US-based NRI show producer identified as Bittu Singh.

The crime branch, which is probing the case, is issuing a Letter Rogatory (LR) through a local court for information on Singh. LR is a request of legal assistance from one court to the court of another country.

Sources said when gangster Ravi Pujari called the production company owned by Karim Morani recently, he threatened them to give Singh the rights for shows abroad by the cast of ‘Happy New Year’ to promote the movie. Last Saturday, a few shots were fired outside the Moranis’ bungalow in Juhu, apparently to scare them.

Now, the Moranis have told the police that a few weeks ago, Bittu Singh himself had called and asked for the overseas rights of the promotional shows. When the Moranis told him it was not in their hands, Pujari called up asking them to favour Singh.

Little is known about Bittu Singh, except that he is originally from Punjab and now a US citizen based in New Jersey with interest in Bollywood shows abroad. Calls TOI made to Singh’s purported US number went unanswered.

Since the calls started, the police have provided security to most of the stars of the new movie, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani and Sonu Sood, among others. “As a precautionary step, almost all the actors of the movie have been provided security,” said an officer.

On Monday, a crime branch team along with Juhu police questioned a close relative of Singh in the city. “Irrespective of who Singh is, we are in the process of collecting evidence against him and making him an accused in the case. People using underworld pressure to get their work done will not be tolerated,” said the officer.

At least six to seven former associates of Pujari, who are now out on bail, are being questioned by the crime branch. Officials said despite several arrests, some people associated with Bollywood are still passing information to Pujari. “In the past, we have booked Khar Gymkhana member Ravi Punjabi and Chembur-based builder Rakesh Sharma for passing information of possible targets to Pujari. This time if we find anybody passing information, they will not be spared,” said a senior IPS officer.

Indian gets prestigious research grant under Obama initiative

NEW YORK: An Indian neuroscientist in the US has been awarded a prestigious grant under President Barack Obama’s initiative to map the human brain.

The grant will help him to develop a “virtual neuroanatomist”, an artificial-intelligence system that can identify cell types and neural structures in microscopic images of brain slices.

The two researchers at the National Science Foundation, Partha Mitra and Florin Albeanu, have been awarded Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) under President Barack Obama’s multi-year Brain Initiative, a statement released by the laboratory said.

The award provides $300,000 over two years for the development of innovative conceptual and physical tools to advance neuroscience. The awards are intended to fund short-term, proof-of-concept projects with the prospect of high-payoffs.

Mitra is working to develop an integrative picture of brain function, incorporating theory and experimental work, it said.

He is also the founder of the Mouse Brain Architecture Project, an experimental effort to develop a brain-wide connectivity map of the mouse brain, the statement said.

Mitra’s work extends to the interface of physics, engineering, and biology, where he is developing theories that will allow researchers to extract meaningful information about neural circuit function.

“Florin Albeanu and Partha Mitra are working at the edge of the technology limit in neuroscience, and are actively expanding the limits of what we can do to understand the ultimate mysteries of the mammalian brain’s structure and operations,” said CSHL president and CEO Dr Bruce Stillman.

“On behalf of the faculty I congratulate them on winning EAGER awards, through which the National Science Foundation (NSF) enables them to continue to innovate,” Stillman said.

Two Indians plead guilty to massive healthcare fraud in US

WASHINGTON: Two Indian pharmacists working in the US have pleaded guilty to a massive healthcare fraud, causing a loss of up to $7 million to the district of Maryland.

Vipin Kumar Patel, 30, and Jigar Patel, 27, both of whom are licensed pharmacists and working in the US under H1-B visa, now faces a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment for making a false statement in a healthcare matter, the US justice department said.

According to their plea agreements, the Patels held the positions of pharmacy technician and lead pharmacy technician, starting at $10 per hour and eventually became salaried employees, making approximately $1,400 biweekly.

In addition, the Patels were provided with housing and transportation, making their total salary and benefits between $70,000 and $120,000.

The value of the housing and transportation benefits were not disclosed on the Patels’ income tax returns, federal prosecutors alleged.

The Patels admitted that they billed insurance programmes for prescription refills when the pharmacy customers had not requested the refill.

As soon as a prescription was eligible for refill, the Patels would cause a false claim to be electronically submitted to a health care benefit program.

These refills were often billed and filled without the customer’s knowledge, federal prosecutors said, adding that the medications targeted for automatic refills were typically expensive HIV and cancer medications used by very ill customers.

The claims for payment were not reversed when the customers did not receive the medications, which they had not requested at the first place.

The Patels also knew that medications filled but not delivered to the customer — usually because they had not requested the refill — were placed back on the shelves at the pharmacy to be re-used to fill other prescriptions, the US department of justice said in a statement.

The Patels did not receive the profits from the fraud scheme directly, but were able to keep their jobs at Pharmacare and lawfully remain in the US their H1-B visas.

The loss to the health care benefit programs to date is between $2.5 million and $7 million, the statement said.

Also another Indian American Reddy Vijay Annappareddy, 46, is scheduled to go to trial on November 11, on charges of healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

If convicted, Annappareddy faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for healthcare fraud and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft, plus a $250,000 fine.

Top 8 India-born language groups in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the main statistical agency in Australia. The ABS conducts a census of population and housing once every five years and the most recent census was conducted by the ABS in 2011. The 2011 census data published by the ABS contains information relating to the language spoken at home by country of birth. The language spoken at home variable records the main language other than English spoken at home.

According to the ABS, on the 9th of August 2011 (census night), there were circa 295,000 India-born people in Australia. Excluding the India-born people who indicated that they only speak English at home, the top 8 India-born language groups in descending order by population counts are: Hindi (20%), Punjabi (19%), Gujarati (9%), Malayalam (7%), Tamil (6%), Telugu (6%), Marathi (2%), and Kannada (2%) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

The percentage of India-born people who indicated that they mainly speak Hindi or Punjabi at home is almost equal. However, considering people born in all countries who were surveyed on the census night, there are far more number of people who indicated that they mainly speak Hindi at home (>111,000 people) compared to people who indicated that they mainly speak Punjabi at home (>71,000 people). Apart from the India and Australia-born people, a vast majority of the people who indicated that they mainly speak Hindi at home are Fiji-born. A large proportion of Fiji’s population is of Indian origin and Hindi is widely spoken in Fiji.

There are more than 50 other India-born language groups in Australia. Some of the other language groups which did not make the top 8 include Urdu, Bengali, Konkani, Tulu, and Oriya.

US Leads In Adopting Indian Children

United States leads in adopting Indian children. Between the years 2010 and 2013, over 600 children were adopted by Americans, followed by Italians, Spanish and UAE.
According to Central Adoption Resource Agency guidelines, the ratio of children adopted by Indians and foreigners is 80:20, reports Christin Mathew Philip, TNN.
To adopt a child parents have to pay a procession fee which is 4,000 for the Indian parents and 5,000 U.S. dollars which is approximately equal to 3 lakh, for the parents from abroad.
It also shows that Maharashtra is the first priority for the foreigner parents to adopt their child. In the last four years a total of 637 children have been adopted from Maharashtra, 299 from Delhi, 199 from West Bengal, 137 from Orissa 121 from Karnataka and 120 from Tamil Nadu.
A senior official from CARA has admitted that Indian children are more in demand. This is because Indian parents usually do not adopt the physically disable children but foreigners adopt more disable children. The fertility rate has decreased in the western part of the world so these children are sent to those countries. The single mothers wholeheartedly accept these children.
According to Anjali Pawar, child right activist, many adoption agencies favor the foreigners where many of the Indian parents wait for adoption. They run an illegal adoption racket and nothing can be done once the children are sent as there is no record of the children to follow-up.

15% NRI seats in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh technical colleges

Hyderabad: Formal orders, announcing the increase in NRI quota seats from the current 5 per cent to 15 per cent in engineering colleges, are set to be issued by the two government.

Telangana government officials held meetings with college managements and agreed to the 15 per cent increase in the NRI quota seats. Andhra Pradesh government officials too held talks with college managements and accepted their demand of increase in the quota. Formal orders will be issue in a couple of days.

Pentagon notifies Harpoon missile sale to India

The $200-milion package includes more than a 20 missiles and two Harpoon certification training vehicles, the U.S. Department of Defence said.

The Pentagon has notified the U.S. Congress about its decision to sell anti-ship Harpoon missiles to India at an estimated cost of $200 million arguing that it will strengthen India-U.S. strategic relationship and improve security of an important partner.

The entire package under the foreign military sale route includes more than a dozen UGM-84L Harpoon Block II Encapsulated Missiles, 10 UTM-84L Harpoon Encapsulated Training missiles, and two Encapsulated Harpoon certification training vehicles, the U.S. Department of Defence’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency said.

“The estimated cost is $200 million,” it said adding that the Harpoon missile system will be employed on the Indian Navy’s Shishumar class submarine and will provide enhanced capabilities in defence of critical sea lines of communication.

India has already purchased Harpoon missiles for integration on Indian Air Force Jaguar aircraft and Indian Navy P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.

India will have no difficulty absorbing these additional missiles into its armed forces, it said in its notification to the Congress.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-India strategic relationship and to improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia,” the Pentagon said, adding that the this proposed sale of Harpoon missiles will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

Boeing would be manufacturing this Harpoon missile.

“In accordance with the Indian Defence Procurement Policy, a contractor may be expected to conclude offset agreements with the Government of India but no offset agreement is currently known to have been proposed in connection with this potential sale,” it said.

5 Things NRIs need to know when filing IT returns in India

The income that NRI earn abroad is not taxable in India. Nevertheless,some NRIs also have an earning in their aborigine country, India in the form of interest from deposits, property rent, etc. This income has a basic limit of exemption, which is Rs2 lakhs. If the NRI earnings from such native sources cross the fixed limit of two lakh, then they should file their tax return.

In addition to the income sources mentioned above, if these NRIs carry out transactions in shares, mutual funds and/or similar securities, the monetary gains from the same are also tax accountable, for which they are supposed to file returns. The due date for this, only in case of NRIs, is July 31.

However, there are certain things that NRIs filing returns must take into consideration. By considering the following practical scenarios, one can ease out his/her tax-return filing process in India.

• When should an NRI file for the return?
There are three major criteria for filing the return. These includeif their income from the country exceeds the maximum limit permissible as basic exemption, or it can be filed to claim a return if the deducted tax is more than what was payable. To settle the claims for the amount set off as capital losses, one should file his returns.

• What all documents do you need as a non-resident Indian?
The documents that one should submit include their passport of the residence country. This shows the total number of days spent outside India for them to qualify as a non-resident Indian. Apart from this, they should provide their de-mat account statements, and the TDS certificates they received from other parties. The statements for de-mat accounts are required for the knowledge of their bank accounts and transactions held in India.

• What are the exemptions and the deductionsfor which you are eligible?
There are certain exemptions in India by which an individual can reduce his/her taxable income. These include certain investments, payment of the principal amount of the housing loan, etc. These exemptions are applicable to NRIs as well. Therefore, for those exemptions that are applicable, the NRIs can claim the same under the Income Tax, such as Section 80C.

There are certain deductions that are specifically not applicable to NRIs. Firstly, NRIs do not benefit from differential exemption limits, based on age and gender, and applicable to resident Indians. Secondly, an NRI’s short-term or long-term capital gains from their investment sale in India, is also not included under tax exemption.

• What should you do to claim a refund?
To expect a refund from your filed tax return, you should ensure to put the exact bank details, which includes your account number and the branch MICR code. In case of an online filing of returns, the processing of your refund happens electronically. Therefore, precise bank account details are always helpful.

• What are the alternatives available to file returns?
The NRIs can file their return online via the Income Tax Department’s e-filing portal.Alternative to this, they may also use other ways to do the same. This includes taking the help of tax advisors, or by using other private and paid e-filing portals for getting their purpose served.

Some more points to remember:
A point to remember is that an NRI, whose total income during the concerned financial year comprises only of investment earnings and/or long-term capital gains, should not necessarily file the returns. Apart from this, if the tax deduction has already taken place at the income source, then too the non-resident Indian may not file the tax return.

With the help of above-mentionedtips, NRIs can simplify the whole process of filing their tax returns in their motherland, India.