Mumbai: Sebi on Tuesday imposed a fine of Rs 7,269 cr on Jaipur-based real estate major Pearls Agrotech Corp Ltd (PACL) and its four directors for illegal mobilization of funds through collective investment schemes to purchase and develop agricultural land, between September 2013 and June 2014, all of which accrued as profit to the company. This is the biggest ever fine by Sebi.
In its order the regulator said PACL and its directors – Tarlochan Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Subrata Bhattacahrya – deserved ‘maximum penalty’ for such large-scale duping of common men.
This record fine on PACL follows Sebi’s August 2014 order which had asked the realty firm to refund Rs 49,100 crore it had collected through unregistered money raising schemes over 15 years. Last month, Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) had upheld the Sebi order against PACL.
Sebi said that PACL committed the crime repeatedly and mobilised huge amount of money, from which it earned a profit of more than Rs 2,423 crore in less than a year. The fine imposed by Sebi is three times the profit made by the company. “Keeping in view the entire facts and circumstances of the case…there cannot be a better case than this which deserves the maximum penalty and if it is done so, it will give a strong message to securities market at large that such type of violation will not be viewed lightly,” Sebi said in its order. “In the recent past, the country has suffered a lot in the hands of entities who indulge in such illegal money mobilisation under various schemes, wherein hard earned money of the common man has been duped. Thus, imposition of deterrent penalty is the need of the hour,” the order said.
For years PACL group has operated under the names Pearls Agrotech Corp Ltd and Pearls Golden Forests Ltd. Sebi first started enquiring about the group’s activities in 1998, following which the company had moved the Supreme Court challenging Sebi’s jurisdiction. After SC gave a go ahead to Sebi to look into the books of PACL group, Sebi asked the group to refund Rs 49,100 crore to investors who had invested in its properties and land pools. The group operated pyramid-like schemes with huge payments to about six lakh agents in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.
The latest order by Sebi is against PACL and its directors for illegally raising about Rs 2,423 crore between September 2013 and June 2014, all of which accrued as profit to the company.