'Factually baseless,' SEBI denies before SC allegations of probing Adani group since 2016

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The Securities and Exchange Board of India on Monday denied before the Supreme Court, that it has been investigating the Adani group of companies since 2016, terming such an allegation as "factually baseless".

In an affidavit, the market regulator told the court that its previous investigation related to Global Depository Receipts were conducted against 51 Indian listed companies. However, no listed company of Adani Group was part of the said 51 companies.

Pursuant to completion of investigation, appropriate enforcement actions were taken in this matter, it said. 

"Hence, the allegation that SEBI is investigating Adani since 2016 is factually baseless. I, therefore, say and submit that reliance sought to be placed on the investigation pertaining to GDRs is wholly misplaced," stated an affidavit filed by Satyansh Maurya, working as Assistant Manager, Securities and Exchange Board of India.

The said investigation has got no relation and/or connection to the issues referred to and/or arising out of the Hindenburg Report, it clarified.

The rejoinder affidavit by the SEBI was filed in the court which has scheduled hearing for Tuesday on its plea for extension of time for six months to complete the probe into Adani group of companies following the Hindenburg report of January 25 alleging "accounting fraud" and "brazen stock manipulation".

With regard to investigation/examination relating to 12 transactions referred to in the Hindenburg Report, the SEBI said prima facie it is noted that these transactions are highly complex and have many sub transactions across numerous jurisdictions.

"A rigorous investigation of these transactions would require collation of data/information from various sources including bank statements from multiple domestic as well as international banks, financial statements of onshore and offshore entities involved in the transactions and contracts and agreements, if any, entered between the entities along with other supporting documents. Thereafter, analysis would have to be conducted on the documents received from various sources before conclusive findings can be arrived at," it said.

SEBI further stated that its application for extension of time is meant to ensure carriage of justice keeping in mind the interest of investors and the securities market since any incorrect or premature conclusion of the case arrived at without full facts material on record would not serve the ends of justice and hence would be legally untenable.

"It would be just, expedient and in the interest of justice that the application for extension of time be allowed," it said.

The affidavit also said, "In the context of investigation into Minimum Public Shareholding norms, SEBI has already approached eleven overseas Regulators under the Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding with International Organisation of Securities Commissions. Various requests for information were made to these Regulators. The first request to overseas Regulators was made as early as on October 6, 2020."

Earlier, on May 12, the court had said it may grant additional time of three months instead of six months to complete the probe by SEBI.

On April 29, the SEBI moved the court seeking six-months extension of time for the purpose.

“For ascertaining possible violations related to mis-representation of financials, circumvention of Regulations and/or fraudulent nature of transactions in respect of 12 suspicious transactions…..given the complexity of the matter, SEBI in the normal course would take at least 15 months for completion of the investigation of these transactions, but is making all reasonable endeavours to conclude the same within six months,” it had said.

Dealing with a batch of PILs led by advocate Vishal Tiwari, the apex court had on March 2 set up a committee headed by the top court's retired judge Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre to investigate if there has been regulatory failure in dealing with the alleged contravention of laws pertaining to the securities market in relation to the Adani Group or other companies.

Case Title: Vishal Tiwari Vs. UOI