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SEBI trying to ‘siphon off’ investor refund: Sahara

The Securities and Exchange Board of India has claimed that it has spent close to Rs 60 cr in 2013-14 on locating genuine investors of SIRECL and SHICL.

Sahara India has alleged that market regulator Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is trying to “siphon off money from the funds” deposited by the group for refunding the investors of Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL). SEBI has claimed that it has spent close to Rs 60 cr in 2013-14 on locating genuine investors of Sahara group companies Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL).

“We have spent a huge chunk of our money on this and we are running out of money now. We had requested the Supreme Court to allow us to use the funds deposited by Sahara India so as we can meet the expenses incurred on this task,” said a senior official from SEBI requesting anonymity.

The official explained that SEBI has spent a large amount on not just locating the investors but also on the storage of the documents submitted by Sahara. In an email response to The Sunday Guardian, Sahara India’s counsel, Keshav Mohan, stated, “We suspect that this is a highly malicious campaign initiated by SEBI with a very clear intention to siphon off money from the funds that Saharas have deposited with SEBI, purely for the repayment to its investors. It is really unfortunate and unbecoming of a regulator, the way SEBI is blowing hot and cold, both at a time.”

He further pointed out that on Thursday, the counsel for SEBI had argued in the Supreme Court that SIRECL and SHICL issues were public issues, while now SEBI has made a plea that Sahara’s investors are untraceable. “We ask SEBI to disclose the basis of their contention, else withdraw their statement. The fact is that, when SEBI sent letters to about 20,000 account numbers and did not receive any responses for them, we immediately got affidavits from a large number of such investors and submitted to SEBI the affidavits, authentic Know Your Customer (KYC) documents and photographs of almost all those investors, who the regulator had tried to contact. Those who were already paid, confirmed that they had received redemption of their investments to their full satisfaction,” Mohan noted.

In a strong rebuttal to SEBI’s allegations, Mohan further added that the market regulator has not been following directions and has not refunded even Rs 1 cr to the investors, in the last 15 months. “It is not known, why SEBI is not following this direction, and why it is only interested in extracting money from Sahara…SEBI’s intentions are unfair and acutely malafide.”

Mohan also pointed out to the fact that on 4 March, SEBI told the court that it had completed the scanning and digitisation of the 3.03 crore investors’ documents provided by Sahara. Therefore the verification process has still not started.

Mohan also recounted that the Minister of State for Finance, Namo Narayan Meena in a reply to a question in Parliament had said that the money given by Sahara is for refund to the investors only and the money would not be utilised for any other purpose. “The money received by SEBI will only be used for the repayment of the investors and till now SEBI has only refunded only Rs 1 cr. This is a sinister attempt by SEBI to eat away investors’ money. Till now, in Saharas’ case SEBI has not shown any intention to protect the interest of investors, for which it has been constituted… we will not let SEBI make this another Golden Forest Case where investors have still not got their hard earned money and will stand and fight till the end in the interest of our investors.”