Referring to Supreme Court's order against Sahara group as a benchmark for cases of unauthorised raising of money from public, Sebi has barred seven persons and one company from the markets for ten years for their involvement in the estimated Rs 1,500 crore 'StockGuru' fraud.
Besides, these entities would also have to refund the entire amount collected fraudulently from gullible investors, along with an interest of 15 per cent per annum, Sebi said in an order after investigating the case.
The order follows a Sebi probe into complaints received by it regarding one Lokeshwar Dev and his accomplice Priyanka Dev, both of whom used several aliases, fraudulently raising more than Rs 1,500 crore through sale of preference shares of
a company named SGI Research & Analysis Ltd.
Names used by them included Ulhas Prabhakar Khaire and Raksha J Urs, Siddharth Jay and Maya Siddharth Marathe, Dr Raj and Priya Zaveri, Dr Rakesh Kumar and Prachi Maheshwari.
A Sebi probe into the case found that the fraudsters had tricked the investors into putting in their money with a promise of 18 per cent dividend, although the real assured dividend was a minuscule 0.12 per cent.
Besides, the money might have mostly been collected in cash to avoid any regulatory glare, as SGI's bank account had entries for a total amount of just about Rs 44 lakh towards subscription of its shares by 162 persons.
However, this was enough for Sebi to enforce the norms that make any offer for subscription of shares or debentures to 50 or more persons a public issue, thus making it mandatory to seek Sebi's approval for any such offer.
Passing the order, Sebi's Whole-Time Member Rajeev Agarwal said that the Supreme Court order of August 31, 2012 in Sahara case has "held that an offer to fifty or more persons becomes public issue" by virtue of the relevant provisions of the Companies Act and needs compulsory listing.
Two Sahara group companies were asked by the Supreme Court to refund the money collected from investors through certain convertible debentures, after the firms approached the apex court against a Sebi order in this regard.
"In the present (StockGuru) case, convertible preference shares were offered and issued to more than 49 persons" and therefore it qualifies as a public offer, he said, adding that SGI offered 'specified securities' to public but did not comply with the applicable Sebi Regulations and Companies Act.
Agarwal further noted that it is