Speak Asia investigation – can the facts be ‘spoken’ under RTI?
More than a year ago, an alleged financial scam by ‘Speak Asia’, a Singapore-based multi-level online marketing group came to light in which the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) had directed the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to look into the issue. An application was filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking information from SFIO, a multi-disciplinary organisation under the MCA having the mandate to probe serious financial frauds.
The SFIO has not disclosed the information claiming that the investigations are continuing. On a legal issue, the matter has been referred to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs/ Ministry of Law and Justice for their advice.
The business model of Speak Asia involved registering members with the company after paying an annual fee who were then required to conduct online surveys for various clients. Speak Asia is not registered as a company in India as it is not a permanent establishment (PE) here and its website claims that the nature of business is such that legally the need for a PE does not arise as per prevailing laws in India. However to effectively support the business in India, Speak Asia is now going to open a PE in India soon. Speak Asia website claims that it is a unique web 2.0 company that empowers 19 lakh consumers to create and use their collective bargaining power to get unprecedented price advantages in goods and services procured through our portals.