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Sebi suspects ‘money laundering’ in ponzi schemes

There is a “huge element of money laundering” in illegal public deposit schemes across the country, a top Sebi official said on Thursday, even as he wondered why not many claimants are coming forward to get back the money in the high-profile Sahara case.

“So far as Sahara is concerned, we have a decent amount of money but not many claimants. That is a question mark, as to why there are no claimants despite the fact that we have made multiple advertisements seeking applications to pay the money,” Sebi Whole Time Member S Raman said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of a website under the State Level Coordination Committees (SLCC) scheme to tackle the menace of illegal money pooling activities, Raman said there is “huge element of money laundering” in such schemes.

Because of this, the Ministry of Finance’s Directorate of Enforcement should (RPT) should also be made a part of the state-level coordination panels, which began working in 2014, he added.

In Sahara case, Sebi was given truckloads of documents not connected to one another and undertook the gargantuan task of sifting through those which has not been done by any regulator in the world, Raman said.

“The entire desire of ours is to distribute as much money as possible,” he said.

Sahara is engaged in a long-running dispute with Sebi over schemes involving raising of funds from public through certain bonds and the group was asked to return thousands of crores along with interest to the investors through the regulator. The group claims to have already refunded 95 per cent of the money directly to the investors.

As per the latest Sebi data, it has got Rs. 11,272 crore with interest in its Sahara Refund Account while the money returned to investors is just around Rs. 55 crore.

Talking about another high-profile case involving Pearl Group entity PACL, which was asked by Sebi to refund over Rs. 50,000 crore collected from investors, Raman said the recently constituted committee under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha is trying to collect details of properties owned by the group.

He, however, sought to clarify that in PACL, the watchdog had been proactive in barring the company from collecting funds as far back in 1996, but the company got a relief in its favour from a High Court.

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