RBI allows FIIs to invest up to $25 billion in infra bonds

FIIs registered with SEBI would also be allowed to invest in NCDs and bonds issued by non-banking financial companies categorised as ‘infrastructure finance companies’ by RBI within the overall limit of $25 billion, the central bank said in a notification

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today allowed foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to invest up to $25 billion, up from existing limit of $5 billion, in bonds and debentures of Indian infrastructure companies, reports PTI.

FIIs registered with SEBI would also be allowed to invest in non-convertible debentures and bonds issued by non-banking financial companies categorised as ‘infrastructure finance companies’ (IFCs) by RBI within the overall limit of $25 billion, the central bank said in a notification.

This was subject to conditions that such instruments shall have a residual maturity of five years or above and the investments would have a lock-in-period of three years, it said.

This lock-in-period shall be computed from the time of first purchase by FIIs, it said.

These changes would also apply for QFI investment in units of mutual fund debt schemes within the limit of $3 billion, it said.

It is to be noted that the government relaxed norms allowing foreign investors to invest in infrastructure bonds and trade such instruments among themselves in September.

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Jail for Pakistan’s tainted trio in spot-fixing trial

“The image and integrity of what was once a game is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded three of you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skill that you had,” justice Jeremy Cooke said in his sentencing remarks

London: Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and two of his teammates—pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir—were today sentenced to jail for their role in the spot-fixing scandal, making them the first cricketers ever to be imprisoned for corruption, reports PTI.

On a day of dramatic developments for the cricketing world, Mr Butt was sentenced to two-and-a-half years, Mr Asif was handed a one-year term, while the 19-year-old Mr Amir was sentenced to six months in the young offenders’ detention centre instead of jail.

Players’ agent Mazhar Majeed got the strongest punishment as he was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by justice Jeremy Cooke after a trial that ran for close to three weeks at the Southwark Crown Court here.

The convicted four can appeal against their sentences.

Mr Amir’s barrister Henry Blaxland QC said he intended to apply for bail later pending an appeal against his sentence.

“It’s not cricket was an adage. It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it which make the offenses so serious,” said justice Cooke in his sentencing remarks.

“The image and integrity of what was once a game is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded three of you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skill that you had.

“These offences, regardless of pleas, are so serious that only a sentence of imprisonment will suffice,” he told the convicted quartet.

The grim-faced players were immediately led out to prison from the courtroom.

Mr Butt, who apparently corrupted his teammates, was called the ‘orchestrator’ of the scam that was revealed after a sting operation on Mr Majeed by the now-defunct tabloid ‘The News of the World’ in August last year.

“It's clear you were the orchestrator of these matters.

You had to be to make sure these two bowlers were bowling at the time of the fix,” the judge stated.

“As captain you influenced Mr Amir at an age when he was just 18. Mr Amir is a talented bowler, it was hard for him to resist as you were the captain. As captain you have perpetuated corruption. You did terrible things, it is bad for cricket and bad for your country,” he said.

“But you have been good to your family so you have been sentenced to a 30 months imprisonment.”

To Mr Asif, justice Cooke said: “Whilst no money was found in your possession, it’s clear that you conspired to bowl a no-ball.

There’s no evidence on your part of prior fixing but it’s hard to see that this could have been an isolated incident.”

Justice Cooke said he settled for a lighter punishment for Mr Amir as he had pleaded guilty and had taken responsibility for his actions.

“You have already accepted your responsibility for whatever you have done and also you come from a rural background and you were just 18 at that time. I am considering all that and I sentence you for six months, otherwise, it would have been nine months,” he said.

Mr Butt and Mr Asif were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments by a jury on Tuesday, while Mr Majeed and Mr Amir pleaded guilty at a pre-trial in September.

The cricketers, however, might have to serve just half of their sentences as they can be released on license if their behaviour is good.

The three players were also ordered to pay up the prosecution cost of the case. While Mr Butt was asked to fork out 30,937 pounds, Mr Asif and Mr Amir were told to pay 8,120 and 9,389 pounds respectively.

“Now, when people look back at a surprising event in a game or a surprising result or ever in the future there are surprising results, followers of the game who have paid to watch cricket or who have watched cricket on TV will wonder whether there has been a fix or what they have watched was natural,” the judge said.

The trio entered the courtroom amid commotion as media persons jostled with laymen for seats in what was perhaps the biggest criminal trial involving cricketers and their sentencing ends a year of high drama which has left Pakistan embarrassed.

The saga began in August last year when shocking footage of Mr Majeed claiming that he could fix a Test match for $1 million came to light.

Mr Majeed claimed to have Mr Butt, Mr Asif and Mr Amir on his payroll and revealed how the trio conspired to send down pre-determined no balls during the Lord’s Test against England last year.

The hotel rooms of the cricketers were subsequently raided by the police after the sting and cash was recovered from their possession.

Mr Butt was banned for 10 years, five of which were suspended, Mr Asif for seven years, while Mr Amir was suspended for five years by the International Cricket Council in earlier disciplinary action against the three.

In the earlier match-fixing scams involving big names such as Hansie Cronje, Salim Malik and Mohammed Azharuddin, various judicial commissions had returned guilty verdicts but no cricketer had been criminally punished so far.

The only previous conviction of sportsmen in the UK courts for cheating came in 1964 when three footballers, including two from Sheffield Wednesday, were jailed for throwing games.

During the conviction, the prosecutors had stated that Mr Butt and Mr Asif had been motivated by greed to ‘contaminate’ a match watched by millions of people and ‘betray’ their team, the Pakistan Cricket Board and the sport itself.

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC said the case “revealed a depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket.”

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Govt likely to introduce Micro Finance Bill in Winter session

The finance ministry is in discussion with all concerned stakeholders for fine tuning the draft Micro Financial Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011. The ministry hopes to table the Bill in the upcoming Winter session of Parliament

New Delhi: The government is likely to introduce a bill that seeks to make it mandatory for all micro finance institutions (MFIs) to be registered with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and entrusts the task of regulating the sector to the central bank in the Winter session of Parliament, reports PTI.

The finance ministry is in discussion with all concerned stakeholders for fine tuning the draft Micro Financial Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, official sources said.

The ministry hopes to table the Bill in the upcoming Winter session of Parliament, sources said.

The draft Micro Financial Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, was circulated for public comments in July this year.

In an earlier bill, it was proposed that the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) would be the regulator of the sector.

The government had introduced the Micro Financial Sector Bill in the Lok Sabha in March, 2007. However, the Bill lapsed when the term of the 14th Lok Sabha expired in 2009.

The latest draft bill proposes to make it mandatory for MFIs to be registered with the RBI and have minimum net-owned funds of Rs5 lakh.

In addition, a Micro Finance Development Council will be set up to advise the government on formulation of policies, schemes and other measures required in the interest of orderly growth and development of the sector and micro-finance institutions with a view to promote financial inclusion.

The council will comprise members not below the rank of executive director from NABARD, National Housing Bank, RBI and SIDBI. In addition, joint secretaries from the ministry of finance and the ministry of rural development will also be its members.

The draft Bill also proposes that any micro finance institution which is not a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956, and which becomes a systemically important micro-finance institution shall convert its institution into a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956, with or without a licence, under Section 25 of the Act.

This should happen within six months from the date of the balance sheet that shows the MFI has become a systematically important micro finance institution in terms of the rules prescribed by the central government, the draft Bill said.

The RBI may pass an order directing a micro finance institution to cease and desist from carrying out micro finance activities if it is found acting in manner prejudicial to the interest of its clients or depositors.

The RBI will cancel the certificate of registration granted to a micro finance institution if it fails to comply with the directives or condition, the draft Bill states.

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