The Congress on Saturday said that the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s inability to arrive at a conclusive finding on allegations of round-tripping and money-laundering by the Adani Group was “deeply troubling”.
The party reiterated its demand for an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, saying that only such a panel could look into allegations of favouritism by the central government towards the Gautam Adani-led conglomerate.
In March, the Supreme Court had asked the market regulator to conduct an inquiry after American firm Hindenburg Research in a report on January 24 alleged that the Adani Group was pulling off the “largest con in corporate history”.
The report claimed that the conglomerate has been involved in accounting fraud, improper use of tax havens and money-laundering. The Adani Group rejected these allegations, but the report still led to heavy stock market losses for the conglomerate.
On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Board of India told the Supreme Court that it is tracking owners of 12 Foreign Portfolio Investors who are public shareholders in Adani Group companies.
Foreign Portfolio Investors are a component of the non-promoters or public shareholders’ grouping in listed companies. The investigation is being conducted to find out if the Adani Group has violated the Securities Contract (Regulation) Act, which stipulates a minimum of 25% public shareholding in listed companies.
The market regulator on Friday informed the court about its investigation covering 13 overseas entities comprising 12 Foreign Portfolio Investors and one foreign entity.
“As many of the entities linked to these foreign investors are located in tax haven jurisdictions, establishing the economic interest shareholders of the 12 FPIs remains a challenge… efforts are still being made to gather details from five foreign jurisdictions,” the Securities and Exchange Board of India told the Supreme Court.
Commenting on the statement, the Congress’ General Secretary in charge of Communications Jairam Ramesh said: “The country is clearly paying a heavy price for the SEBI’s decision in 2018 to dilute, and in 2019 to delete, the reporting requirements relating to the ultimate beneficial [i.e. actual] ownership of foreign funds.”
Ramesh said that the reintroduction of strict reporting rules following a meeting of the market regulator’s board on June 28 “represents a public admission of guilt by the regulatory body, even though the horse has bolted the stable”.
The Congress MP said that only a Joint Parliamentary Committee could “examine how the Modi government flouted rules, norms and procedures to help the PM’s favourite business group”.