The Supreme Court had on March 2 asked Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to conclude within two months its probe into allegations levelled by US short-seller Hindenburg Research against Adani Group.
SEBI was to file a status report on May 2 but on Saturday it made an application seeking extension. Hindenburg in January accused Adani Group of accounting fraud and using a web of companies in tax havens to inflate revenue and stock prices, even as debt piled up.
The conglomerate has repeatedly denied all the allegations. SEBI in its application filed on Saturday stated that it needs six months to “arrive at conclusive finding” in case of those where “prima facie violations have been found” and “to revalidate the analysis and arrive at conclusive finding” where “prima facie violations have not been found.” Investigation/examination relating to 12 suspicious transactions, reveals that these “are complex and have many sub-transactions and a rigorous investigation of these transactions would require collation of data/information from various sources along with detailed analysis including verification of submissions made by the companies,” SEBI said in the application.
“It is pertinent to note that in the SEBI application filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, there are no conclusions of any alleged wrongdoing,” Adani Group said in a statement.
“The SEBI application only cites the allegations made in the short-seller’s report, which are still under investigation.” The delay in the SEBI probe met with skepticism in some quarters.
“This is a joke. @SEBI_India has been investigating since October 2021 when they replied to my letter of July. While they prima facie see violations (no surprise)-they want 6 months to protect their favorite businessman so that he can get maximum time to cover up,” TMC MP Mahua Moitra tweeted.
The Congress on Monday said granting a six-month extension to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to complete its probe into the alleged stock price manipulation by the Adani group may create the perception the investigation is not being seriously pursued but being “buried”.
Congress General Secretary (in-charge, communications) Jairam Ramesh said a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe is needed to fully investigate the Adani issue, but a speedy SEBI investigation is also required to get to the bottom of the “very serious allegations”.
The top court had on March 2 asked the SEBI to probe the matter within two months and also set up a panel to look into the protection of Indian investors after a damning report by a US short-seller wiped out more than USD 140 billion of the conglomerate’s market value.
Tagging a media report on the SEBI’s plea, Ramesh said, “SEBI has found many irregularities worthy of investigation in the Adani Mega Scam, and we urge it to pursue each lead to its logical conclusion.” “But a long six-month extension risks the perception that the investigation is not being vigorously and seriously pursued but is being buried, as happened with at least two previous SEBI investigations into the Adani Group,” he said.
“India needs a JPC to fully investigate Modani, but it also needs a speedy SEBI investigation to get to the bottom of the very serious allegations,” Ramesh added, attacking the prime minister.
The apex court, while directing the setting up of a six-member committee headed by former apex court judge Justice A M Sapre for the assessment of the extant regulatory framework and for making recommendations to strengthen the process, had said that it was appropriate to set up such a panel of experts in order to protect Indian investors against the volatility of the kind which has been witnessed in the recent past.
The Justice Sapre panel is to be provided assistance by the Centre and other statutory agencies including the SEBI chairperson. The Centre had agreed to the apex court’s proposal to set up a committee, to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge, to go into the regulatory regimes.