IBBI Suspends Resolution Professional Anil Goel for 1 Year for Suppressing Information from MP RERA in AG8 Ventures Case
Moneylife Digital Team 20 May 2024
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Board/IBBI) has suspended the registration of Anil Goel, an insolvency professional (IP), for failing to provide information to Madhya Pradesh Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MP-RERA) and suppressing information about pending contempt proceedings against him before the national company law appellate tribunal (NCLAT). Mr Goel was IP for the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) of AG8 Ventures Ltd, the corporate debtor (CD). AG8 Ventures' realty projects, spread across India, are under the brand name 'Aakriti'. In December last year, the NCLAT delivered a landmark order in favour of Aquacity Consumer and Social Welfare Society (ACSWS), which represents a group of home buyers and MP-RERA. Aquacity is a project of Akriti. 
 
In an order last week, Jayanti Prasad, whole-time member (WTM) of IBBI says, "Mr Goel appointed an evidently related party, Piyush Kumar Kapoor as authorised representatives (AR). The memorandum of understanding (MoU) arrangement between Mr Kapoor and AAA Insolvency Professionals LLP (AAAIP)  of which Mr Goel is chairman and founding partner, was already pre-existing and, inter alia, indicated that the AAAIP would assist Mr Kapoor for empanelment and submitting expression of interest and allow Mr Kapoor to utilise the infrastructure facilities of AAAIP, assistance and guidance of AAAIP and Mr Goel for taking strategic decisions. In return, Mr Kapoor had to share his revenue with AAAIP, assist in enhancing the brand and goodwill of AAAIP and work as per various organisational policies. Mr Goel failed to adopt a transparent mechanism for the appointment of observers."
 
IBBI observed that NCLAT, while hearing a challenge by MP RERA, gave an interim stay on order issued by the appellate authority (AA). Despite the directions in the stay order, Mr  Goel continued conducting the CIRP and carried on with claim verification. NCLAT took an adverse view of Mr Goel's conduct and, on 23 January 2023, observed that a prima facie case of contempt against him had been made out.
 
The disciplinary committee (DC) of IBBI noted that the submission of Mr Goel that during the interim stay on the CIRP, granted by NCLAT, only limited process of verification of claims was being undertaken by his team. Further, out of a large number of claimants being around 2,000 in number, the communication concerning claims was sent only to four claimants, in which one communication was automatically sent through the platform for distressed assets (PDA) system, it added.
 
On 10 October 2022, the MP RERA sought information from Mr Goel about various allottees of AG8 Ventures. However, he did not provide the required information. IBBI noted that MP RERA has imposed multiple penalties on Mr Goel for not furnishing information related to other projects of AG8 Venturers. 
 
 
Mr Goel had filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court (HC) challenging various orders passed by the MP RERA, but later he requested permission to withdraw the appeal with the liberty to approach the appropriate forum.
 
However, during the proceedings, it was also brought to the notice of the HC that Mr Goel was prima facie found guilty of contempt vide an order dated 23 January 2023 passed by NCLAT.
 
The DC also noted that Regulation 16A of the CIRP Regulations mandates an IRP to apply to AA for the appointment of AR within two days of the verification of claims. However, in the instant matter, even before the appointment of Mr Kapoor as AR by the AA, Mr Goel allowed him to participate in the first committee of creditors (CoC) meeting and allowed him to represent the creditors in class. 
 
Even during the first meeting of the CoC, IBBI found that there were observers elected before even discussing the matter and they participated in the meeting as proposed observers. 
 
"It was also noted that some of the observers were sharing information in homebuyer's WhatsApp groups and influencing the homebuyers to vote in a particular manner on various agenda items including the appointment of Mr Goel as RP," IBBI says.
 
IBBI then decided to suspend the registration of Mr Goel for one year. 
 
In February this year, while refusing to interfere in the 9 December 2023 order passed by the NCLAT, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by DB Corp (Dainik Bhaskar group), one of the largest newspapers in MP. The dismissal of DB Corp's appeal by the apex court means that the homebuyers will finally get a refund of their investment with interest from the Aakriti group, even if they have had to give up on the homes they had invested in.
 
Members of ACSWS purchased residential apartments in the 2011-2017 period from AG8 Ventures which is part of a large business group with interests in realty, hospitality, sugar and healthcare. Its realty projects spread across India, are under the brand name 'Aakriti'. It has a large presence in MP, with 11 projects registered with the MP-RERA. When the builder was unable to deliver apartments, the Home Buyers Association moved the national consumer disputes resolution commission (NCDRC) and obtained a favourable order in 2020-21. 
 
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