ED begins probe into Sahara OFCD issues

In further trouble to Sahara India Group, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has begun a probe into the Rs 24,000 crore optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs) which were raised violating the norms set by market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

In August, the Supreme Court had asked Sahara to return the money to the investors within 3 months along with 15 per cent interest.

The apex court upheld the order of the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) and directed Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd. (SHICL) to refund over Rs 24,400 crore collected from 2.21 crore depositors. The sum was collected by way of bonds.

Sources in the ED confirmed that Sebi has approached them to initiate a probe against Sahara group and help them in identifying the large number of investors.

It is also alleged that the investors who invested in Sahara were bogus and fictitious.

Apart from identifying the investors, ED will also probe the source of funds.

"These accounts which were used for making investment can be attached under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) if Sahara group fails to give information regarding them," said an ED official.

Under certain sections of PMLA, ED can also attach the properties and bank accounts of the group if the probe establishes any wrong doing or money laundering, officials said.

The official added that they are in the process of collecting the details of investors and are scrutinising the data after which, they will summon Sahara officials. When contacted, there was no response by Sahara Group and an e-mail sent remain unanswered.

In November, Sebi has also filed a contempt petition against Sahara Group and its chairman Subrata Roy for non-compliance of the Supreme Court's directions, asking them to refund Rs 24,400 crore. The three-month deadline set by the apex court ends on November 30, during which Sahara has also to furnish all documents, particularly the application forms submitted by subscribers, the approval and allotment of bonds, to Sebi.

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