The CBI has arrested four officials of PACL including its CMD, MD, and two executive directors in the Rs45,000 crore scam
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday arrested four officials of PACL (earlier Pearls Agrotech corp), including Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, chairman and managing director (MD), Sukhdev Singh, MD and promoter-director and two executive directors Gurmeet Singh and Subrata Bhattacharya in the Rs45,000 crore collective investment scam.
Last month, market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), as part of its recovery proceedings, had attached all bank and demat accounts, mutual fund portfolios of PACL Ltd and its eight directors and promoters. Besides PACL, its promoters and directors against whom SEBI initiated the proceedings, are Tarlochan Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Subrata Bhattacharya, Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, Tyger Joginder, Gurnam Singh, Anand Gurwant Singh and Uppal Devinder Kumar.
SEBI said, the recovery proceedings have been initiated for their failure to comply with its order issued on 22 August 2014 directing, PACL and its directors and promoters to wind up the schemes, and refund Rs49,100 crore to the investors within three months from the date of the order.
According to SEBI, the amount due to investors of PACL would be over Rs55,000 crore. This includes promised returns, further interest, all costs, charges and expenses incurred in respect of all the proceedings taken for recovery of Rs49,100 crore from PACL.
PACL (earlier Pearls) is a Delhi-based company, proclaiming itself as a real estate company which has collected huge money for the last 13 years from almost six crore people from all the states in India.
The mobilisation of funds by PACL traces back prior to 1997. Upon receipt of a complaint, SEBI on 30 November 1999 and 10 December 1999 issued letters asking PACL to comply with the provisions of the collective investment scheme (CIS) Regulations.
PACL challenged these letters before the High Court of Rajasthan in December 1999, claiming that its scheme does not fall under the definition of CIS as defined under the CIS Regulation and SEBI Act. PACL also challenged the constitutional validity of the CIS Regulations.
The Rajasthan High Court on 28 November 2003, held that PACL's schemes were not CIS as defined under Section 11AA of the SEBI Act. The HC also quashed SEBI's letters issued to PACL.
SEBI filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the order of Rajasthan HC. The SC on 25 February 2013, while allowing the appeal upheld the constitutional validity of CIS Regulations, and directed SEBI to investigate the matter and take appropriate actions.
After conducting inquiry, SEBI on 22 August 2014, issued an order directing PACL, its promoters and directors to wind up all the existing CIS and refund the monies collected by the company to investors as per the terms of offer within a period of three months from the date of the Order.
PACL filed an appeal before the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), which was dismissed on 12 August 2015. The SAT directed PACL and its promoters-directors to refund the money within three months. Since the company and its promoters-directors failed to refund the money to the investors as per the directions of SEBI and SAT, the market regulator said it has initiated the recovery proceedings.