SEBI hid facts to shield Adani, petitioner claims in Supreme Court
In January 2014, DRI sent a letter to the then Sebi chairperson, UK Sinha, alerting him that there may be stock market manipulation by the Adani Group.
New Delhi The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) not only concealed several facts about previous investigations against the Adani Group but also tweaked the regulations to keep the group’s regulatory contraventions and price manipulations undetected, one of the petitioners demanding investigations into allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud against the Adani Group made by US short-seller Hindenburg Research, has claimed in the Supreme Court.
In an affidavit filed two days ago, Anamika Jaiswal alleged that the market regulator did not apprise the court of an investigation initiated by the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) against the Adani group of companies over alleged overvaluation of import of equipment and machinery by various entities of the Adani Group from a UAE-based subsidiary.
In January 2014, DRI sent a letter to the then Sebi chairperson, UK Sinha, alerting him that there may be stock market manipulation by the Adani group of companies, said Jaiswal’s affidavit, adding this letter was also accompanied by a CD containing evidence of siphoning of ₹2,323 crore. According to the petitioner, Sinha chose to close the investigation instead of acting on DRI’s inputs. It pointed out that Sinha, who retired as Sebi chairperson in March 2017, is now a non-executive director of NDTV, which was acquired by the Adani Group in 2022.
Jaiswal further said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also had to shut its probe in the matter after the Maharashtra government did not grant sanction for prosecution.
“It is shocking that SEBI has not disclosed the receipt of the said letter (DRI letter) and evidence from the DRI till date before this Hon’ble Court,” stated the affidavit, citing Sebi’s previous statements to the court that it started investigation against the Adani group only in June-July 2020. The affidavit said that Sebi’s conduct amounts to perjury.
Referring to the latest status report submitted by Sebi in the court earlier this month, Jaiswal said that though the market regulator claimed that 22 out of 24 investigations arising out of the Hindenburg report were final in nature, outcomes of these investigations have been kept under wraps by Sebi.
The affidavit also alleged a conflict of interest in Sebi conducting investigation into the matter. It said that Cyril Shroff, managing partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas law firm, has been a member of Sebi’s committee on corporate governance, which looks at offences like insider trading. “Cyril Shroff’s daughter is married to Karan Adani, son of Gautam Adani, showing clear conflict of interest,” claimed Jaiswal, stressing that 5 of the 24 Sebi investigation reports are on insider trading allegations against the Adani group.
HT reached out to Shroff and the law firm for a response to Jaiswal’s allegations, but the attempts remained unsuccessful.
To be sure, the committee on corporate governance was constituted by Sebi in 2017 and it has 23 other members, which include bankers, entrepreneurs, chartered accountants, business executives, senior bureaucrats and corporate lawyers.
Jaiswal’s affidavit also referred to certain new reports by international papers that reportedly incriminate the Adani Group for contravening an array of regulations. It further maintained that Sebi brought amendments into the regulations relating to foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) and listing obligations and disclosure requirement (LODR) were in 2014 and 2015 respectively only to benefit the Adani group.
The Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter on September 15.
Hindenburg’s report published in January claimed “brazen accounting fraud” and “stock manipulation” by the Gautam Adani-led group. Though the conglomerate rejected the report as “unresearched” and “maliciously mischievous”, it triggered a massive rout of Adani Group stocks, which lost over $140 billion in days and forced the cancellation of a ₹20,000 crore share sale in the group’s flagship.
Acting on a clutch of petitions demanding a probe into the matter, the Supreme Court on March 2 set up a six-member panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge AM Sapre, to look into regulatory failure by Sebi and alleged breach of laws by the Adani Group.
In its report submitted in May, the committee said the allegations of stock price manipulation or violation of MPS norms by Adani Group companies cannot be proved “at this stage”.