MCX-SX case: CBI examines Sebi chief U K Sinha

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: May 23 2014, 01:23am hrs
UKMCX-SX was set up by FTIL and its commodity exchange arm MCX and began functioning as a full-fledged stock exchange last year. Express photo
The CBI has quizzed Chairman of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) U K Sinha in connection with granting of permission to Jignesh Shah-founded Financial Technologies (India) group for setting up MCX Stock Exchange.

Sinha was examined by a CBI team last evening in Mumbai during which he explained his reasons for granting licence to MCX-SX for operating as a full-fledged stock exchange, official sources said here today.

Efforts to reach Sinha failed as he had switched off his mobile number and there was no response on his office numbers.

The decision to quiz Sinha, as also former Sebi Chairman M Damodaran, was taken after examination of another former Sebi chief C B Bhave earlier this month, during which the agency sleuths were told that public interest was involved in grant of licence to MCX-SX to trade in currency derivatives. The approval for full-fledged stock exchange came during the tenure of Sinha, who took charge of the SEBI in February 2011. He got an extension of two years in February this year.

After getting a full-fledged licence, MCX-SX started trading in equity and derivatives. Now, the CBI is expected to examine Damodaran soon before the agency takes a final call on whether any criminality was made out from the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) registered more than two months back.

CBI Director Ranjit Sinha has made an effort to take a decision on every PE within three months.

MCX-SX had approached SEBI during Damodaran's tenure who cleared the file at a time when Income Tax searches were being conducted on Shah.

The former SEBI chief had, however, claimed that the report about Income Tax searches reached him later. Last week Bhave, a 1975 batch IAS officer from Maharashtra, was quizzed by the CBI during which he made it clear that there was no undue pecuniary benefit to Jignesh Shah entities as a result of this decision.

Bhave, another former member K M Abraham and Financial Technologies India Ltd (FTIL) and MCX-SX have been named in the PE.

Bhave has denied any quid pro quo as alleged by CBI for grant of permission to the bourse and said the agency wanted to understand the public interest involved in licence grant.

He became SEBI Chairman in February 2008 and his three-year term ended in February, 2011. Abraham's term as a whole-time member of Sebi also ended in 2011.

MCX-SX was set up by FTIL and its commodity exchange arm MCX and began functioning as a full-fledged stock exchange last year after a prolonged battle with SEBI.

The exchange was initially granted permission for only a limited segment of currency derivatives in 2008, on the condition that its licence would require approval every year. Incidentally, Abraham had written in 2011 to the Prime Minister's Office that SEBI was being pressured by the Finance Ministry to go easy on some corporates, including MCX and Sahara, against whom he had passed orders. However, these charges were rejected by the Finance Ministry as also SEBI. MCX-SX was initially given licence to operate in a limited segment of currency derivatives in 2008, but SEBI refused permission to allow it to act as a full-fledged bourse for years as it was not found to be in compliance with existing regulations for the same.

It was Abraham's order in September 2010 that rejected MCX-SX application for a full-fledged exchange, saying it was not in compliance with shareholding regulations and it was not a 'fit and proper' entity for such a business.

MCX-SX could launch services as a full-fledged bourse only last year after it met all the necessary regulations and conditions imposed by SEBI.