THE CBI on Thursday registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against former Sebi chairman CB Bhave and former member KM Abraham in connection with alleged irregularities in giving recognition to MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) in
2008 and renewing the same in 2009 and 2010.
The agency has also registered PEs against the exchange promoter Financial Technologies India (FTIL), which was last year found unfit by the Forward Markets Commission (FMC) to run an exchange, after a payment crisis broke out at National Spot Exchange (NSEL), also promoted by FTIL.
The CBI’s move to register the PEs coincided with the raids conducted by the agency at NSEL premises on Thursday. Last month, FTIL unit MCX had asked the tainted promoter to divest its 26% in the commodity exchange and bring it down to 2% to comply with the FMC directive.
Sebi’s approval, the CBI sources said, was based on MCX-SX’s submissions and the undertakings by the promoters of MCX-SX that the shareholding of MCX and FTIL in the equity share capital of MCX-SX would be reduced to 5% or lower within 18 months in accordance with the regulations. “However, the promoters did not dilute the shareholding and Sebi, which should have canceled the recognition, went ahead and renewed it 2009 and 2010.
The finance ministry, in 2008, had also cautioned Sebi to check the credentials of the promoters as they had earlier faced income tax raids,” a CBI official said.
Bhave became Sebi chairman in February 2008 and his three-year term ended in February 2011. The term of Abraham, a Kerala cadre IAS officer as whole-time member of Sebi also ended in 2011.
MCX-SX commenced operations in the currency derivatives segment in October 2008 and began functioning as a full-fledged stock exchange in 2012 after a prolonged battle with Sebi. Troubles began when NSEL defaulted on R5,600 crore payouts to its investors.
Ironically, Abraham, against whom the PE has been filed, had written to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2011 saying the finance ministry exerted pressure on the regulator to go easy on MCX, Sahara and some other corporates. Current Sebi chairman UK sinha had refuted this.
On Thursday, the CBI also filed FIRs against FTIL promoter Jignesh Shah, NSEL, former top brass of NSEL and officials of Project and Equipment Corporation for criminal conspiracy and cheating. The CBI has also named former NSEL CEO Anjani Sinha in its FIR and four agro firms.
In its FIR against PEC and NSEL, the agency has alleged that PEC was floating fraudulent paired contracts for trading of agro-commodities on the NSEL platform without undertaking any genuine trade and causing a loss of R120 crore to the government.
On Thursday morning, the agency carried out searches at 15 locations across the country, including offices of NSEL. The searches were carried out in Mumbai, two locations in Karnal and nine in Delhi. Offices of seven borrowers who were involved in paired contracts in PEC transactions were also searched as part of the operation. The searches were also conducted at the offices of Whitewater Foods, PD Agro, Dunar Foods, Vimladevi, Yathuri Associate, Mohan India and ARK Imports.
CBI also searched Sinha’s residence and recovered R36 lakh. Residential premises of five PEC officials were also searched. The agency also questioned Shah on Thursday.