Capital markets regulator SEBI on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it has completed the probe in all but two allegations against the Adani group and is still awaiting information from five tax havens on actual owners behind foreign investors investing in the conglomerate.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India in a status report to the Supreme Court stated that out of the 24 matters it was probing, findings in as many as 22 are final.
Without divulging the outcome of its investigations, SEBI gave a detailed breakdown of the steps taken by it during its probe, including related party transactions.
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“SEBI shall take appropriate action based on the outcome of the investigations in accordance with law,” the regulator said in the filing.
The probe reports finalised include allegations of manipulation of stock prices, alleged failure to disclose transactions with related parties and possible violation of insider trading in some of the group stocks.
However, on the allegation of non-compliance with the minimum public sharing requirement by investing in its own companies through overseas proxies, SEBI said its investigation covered 13 overseas entities (12 foreign portfolio investors and one foreign entity).
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These 13 were classified as public shareholders of the Adani group companies but allegations including the US short-seller Hindenburg Research termed some of them as close associates or run by Vinod Adani, the elder brother of group chairman Gautam Adani.
“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,” SEBI said adding efforts are still being made to gather details from five foreign jurisdictions pertaining to the actual owners of these investors.
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Pending this, the probe report is interim, it said.
FPIs are a component of the non-promoters/public shareholders’ grouping in listed companies. According to Sebi, listed companies have to maintain a minimum public shareholding of at least 25 per cent.
SEBI also said an interim report has been approved by the competent authority with respect to trading in Adani group stocks in pre and post-release of the Hindenburg report.
“Information from external agencies/entities actively pursued and awaited,” it said adding this interim report was approved by the competent authority on August 24.
Hindenburg Research in a January 24 report alleged accounting fraud, stock price manipulation and improper use of tax havens, triggering a stock market rout that had erased close to USD 150 billion in the market value at its lowest point.
Adani Group has denied all allegations.
Following this, the Supreme Court asked SEBI to look into the allegations and submit its findings. A separate six-member expert panel was formed in March, which included a retired judge and veteran bankers, to look into regulatory aspects of the allegations.
That panel in May stated that SEBI had so far drawn a blank in its investigations and its ongoing pursuit of the case is a “journey without a destination”.
Allegations concerning related-party transactions and minimum public shareholding norms were key to the January 24 Hindenburg report.
The apex court set August 14 as the deadline for SEBI to conclude its probe and submit the report. The regulator sought a 15-day extension to conclude the investigation. It has now submitted a status report on its probe.
SEBI earlier identified 13 specific deals it was looking into, for whether they legally fell under related-party transactions.