Sebi finds serious anomalies in Subrata Roy's Sahara group papers on investors

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 6 2014, 14:50pm hrs
SSubrata Roy has been in Tihar jail since Tuesday after SC ordered him to be incarcerated there. PTI
Sebi has come across serious anomalies and a huge number of possibly fictitious investors after analysing truck loads of documents submitted by Subrata Roy's Sahara group to substantiate its claim of over Rs 20,000-crore refunds.

To locate genuine investors who may have deposited money with Sahara group, the regulator also wants to issue public notices in regional language newspapers and through other avenues, especially in northern and eastern states of the country.

Sahara group, whose chief Subrata Roy was yesterday sent into judicial custody, had deposited Rs 5,120 crore with Sebi after court orders. It claims to have already refunded all but Rs 2,000 crore in cash directly to investors. The court had ordered refund of over Rs 24,000 crore in August 2012.

Sebi has contested Sahara's direct refund claims.

However, Sebi's analysis of documents submitted by Saharas has thrown up large-scale mismatch -- in dates on application forms and redemption vouchers, addresses, names, bond details, among others -- in these papers, sources said.

There are numerous instances of one person having hundreds of accounts, one account having multiple beneficiaries, one person with multiple address and one address having tens of individuals. There are some people whose claimed dues spread over multiple accounts run into crores of rupees.

Besides, there are thousands of cases where addresses are untraceable, as also cases having innocuous addresses like national highways, and just names of villages, towns or roads, sources said on condition of anonymity.

A large chunk of these details have also been presented before the Supreme Court through written and oral submissions, they said, while adding that there are also cases of payment dates being shown earlier than the voucher dates.

The months-long analysis, which was conducted with the help of hundreds of scanners, computers and a robotic system installed at a huge warehouse in suburbs of Mumbai by hundreds of people, began early last year soon after Saharas delivered more than 100 trucks full of cartons containing documents.

Sebi has finally managed to sort over three crore application forms of investors who were issued OFCDs (Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures), as per claims of Saharas, and close to 2.4 crore redemption vouchers through which the group claimed to have refunded the investors.

The physical documents were first scanned and then given distinctive numbers for easy-storage in the robotic system installed at SHCIL (Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd) warehouse, which has been hired by Sebi especially for the Sahara refund case.

While it is now possible to easily locate and match all these forms now, the analysis has thrown up shocking results in terms of genuineness of the claimed investors.

Sebi is separately handling the investor claims that it is getting directly from the public after its earlier public notice last year, wherein those having invested in Sahara OFCDs were asked to send appropriate documents for refund.

The details of these investors are then being matched with those provided by Saharas, although a large number of these direct claims are coming without necessary documents.

Sahara has accused Sebi of being slow on refund and investor verification, but the regulator's lawyer Arvind Datar rejected these charges in Supreme Court yesterday.

Sebi began the process of refund to individual genuine investors in May last year after verifying their credentials, while it is waiting for a go-ahead from the court to start refund to genuine investors with multiple accounts.

In multiple account cases, the regulator first wants to refund investors having outstanding amount worth Rs one or two lakh, while cases involving larger amounts would be investigated further before payments, if any.

The ongoing refunds are being made from Rs 5,120 crore that has been deposited by Saharas so far.

The refund process has been a tough job for a special team of Sebi officials, who keep travelling between Bandra Kurla Complex headquarters of the regulatory authority and the Navi Mumbai warehouse being used for storage of documents.

The SHCIL warehouse, having 32 lakh cubic feet of storage capacity, has automatic robotic systems for handing of documents, their storage in safe vaults and for easy retrieval of documents whenever needed.

It was originally built to store the physical share certificates of listed companies in the country when demat shares were not in vogue.

To get rid of existing pest and other harmful objects, documents received at the warehouse are first put inside fumigating chambers and then placed inside its sophisticated automated systems which have a temperature, humidity and pest controlled environment.

As majority of investor accounts, from about 3 crore listed out by Sahara, are not turning out to be genuine, there is a growing suspicion about possible money laundering, a senior official said, adding that other regulatory agencies would need to play a more active role in such a scenario.

According to senior officials, the refund task is too complex and the Sahara group has not been very forthcoming when asked to cooperate in investor verification. The group, however, claims that Sebi has not sought its help in verifying investors.

While Sebi has not disclosed any official figure for the refunds made so far, Sahara group claims that the total refund so far is just about Rs 1 crore.