The Supreme Court has paved the way for prosecution of S Natarajan, now a director in the Sriram Group, in the 2004 high-profile ponzi scam involving Chennai-based PNL Nidhi Limited which allegedly collected Rs 68.50 crore from over 13,000 investors and defaulted in repayment. The apex court set aside a Madras High Court order quashing criminal proceedings against Natarajan, who had served as one of the directors till 2000 in the accused firm, PNL Nidhi Limited, which is now defunct.
The private finance company and several others including Natarajan are accused of misappropriation of public money and fraudulent diversion of property in 2004. They are also charged with collecting Rs 68.50 crore from 13,295 depositors and defaulting in repayment. The high court had set aside the proceedings against Natarajan, who was a director in the accused firm between 1995 and 2000, on the ground that default in repayment of dues to depositors by PNL Nidhi Limited occurred in 2004 while he left four years ago. Setting aside the order, an apex court bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha noted that during the period when Natarajan was a director of PNL Nidhi Limited, its funds were diverted in different corporate entities, which resulted in default in repayment of money to the depositors.
It also observed that he had held “controlling interest” in a private company, Calfin Credit Holdings Pondicherry Limited (CCHPL), Chennai, which was one of the beneficiaries of the fund diversion. “In the light of the above facts and circumstances of the case, we do not think that the high court was right in quashing the criminal proceedings against the respondent (Natarajan). “We refrain from addressing any other issue, save and except what is indicated above to record our conclusion that the order of the High Court is not legally tenable. We, therefore, set aside the same and allow these appeals,” the top court said.
In 2014, the Madras High Court had appointed one of its former judges as administrator to settle the dues of PNL Nidhi Limited to depositors in Puducherry and Cuddalore. The PNL had agreed to settle 75 per cent of the deposits collected by it. A 3,000-page charge sheet was filed in May 2012 in a Puducherry court by the prosecution agency. A case was filed against the PNL Nidhi Limited for misappropriation of public money and fraudulent diversion of property in 2004 by the CID.