Of lakhs of Sahara investors, SEBI finds only 68 genuine

AS

The Securities and Exchange Board of India has been able to find just 68 genuine investors from among the details of lakhs of investors the Sahara group has sent to its office.

These are the only people who have responded to mailers from the market regulator and sent complete details of their investment in the two schemes of Sahara India Real Estate Corporation and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation that the Supreme Court has asked to be refunded.

SEBI started mailing the investors in mid-December. The court order to refund about Rs 24,000 crore, which the Sahara group claims was raised from about 3 crore investors, has consequently landed the regulator in a peculiar situation, government sources said.

SEBI has, for instance, found that in a batch of 20,000 mailers it sent to investors based on details given by Sahara, more than 8,000 were returned by India Post with the stamp "addressee untraceable".

Similarly, on a website opened by the regulator for investors to send their complaints, about 500 queries were received until the end of February. Yet, when SEBI officials verified them, over 400 were found to be from fictitious addresses. Sahara has, however, contested the SEBI position saying their liability is limited to only providing the address as furnished by applicants while investing.

This means that even as SEBI has begun freezing the assets of the two Sahara companies along with personal assets of group chief Subrata Roy Sahara, there is hardly anyone stepping up to claim the money in India's allegedly largest Ponzi scheme.

A government source said that based on the present trend, the percentage of genuine investors could turn out to be less than 1 per cent of the total 3 crore claimed by the group in their depositions to SEBI, the Securities Appellate Tribunal and even the Supreme Court.

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