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money laundering: Paradise Papers: Sebi lens on firms for fund diversion

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NEW DELHI: Markets regulator Sebi will look into alleged fund diversion and corporate governance lapses at various listed firms and their promoters, including those linked to Vijay Mallya, named in the leaked ‘Paradise Papers’.

While some entities linked to Mallya are already being probed by Sebi and other agencies, any fresh disclosure in the leaked documents made public by ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) would be thoroughly looked into, senior officials said.

The disclosures about other listed firms and those associated with them or their promoters would also be looked into for any irregularities including about corporate governance and disclosure norms, the officials added.

Officials maintained that mere presence of any Indian entity in an offshore tax-friendly jurisdiction may not amount to violation of laws, but non-disclosure about such entities and routing of funds to them could be ascertained only after a thorough investigation.

To start with, the stock exchanges and the regulator would ask the listed companies concerned to provide details about any offshore entities liked to them, which would be then matched with the statutory and regulatory disclosures made by those companies including in annual reports and other filings.

Sebi will also coordinate with other regulators and government agencies, while information would be sought from foreign regulators if required, one official said, while adding that a structured multi-regulatory approach could be discussed at FSDC (Financial Stability and Development Council) or other such forums.

The ‘Paradise Papers’ investigation, carried out by ICIJ along with media partners across the world including the Indian Express, has unvield offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies after exploring 13.4 million leaked files from offshore law firms and the company registries in some secretive countries.

The leaked files, including those from offshore law firm Appleby, purportedly provide details of tax planning by nearly 100 MNCs, while more than 700 Indian companies and individuals are said to be among those named in the list.

Among other Indian entities, Sebi is already probing various aspects about Mallya and his erstwhile listed firms, while some directions have also been passed in certain cases.

Recently, the Securities Appellate Tribunal asked Sebi to to expeditiously pass a fresh order in the matter relating to Diageo Plc requiring to make additional payments to the minority shareholders of United Spirits Ltd (USL).

Diageo became a controlling shareholder of USL — whose erstwhile promoter was now fugitive Mallya — in May 2013 with 25.02 per cent stake after completion of a Rs 3,134.56 crore open offer.

Among the firms that have cropped up in the leaked list of ‘Paradise Papers’, shares of Jindal Steel & Power went down by 2.32 per cent on BSE, Essar Shipping lost 2 per cent, Videocon Industries fell by 1.82 per cent, Sun TV Network dropped by 1.74 per cent, GMR Infrastructure declined by 1.57 per cent and Apollo Tyres dipped 0.88 per cent.

On the other hand, shares of USL rose by 1.19 per cent on BSE.

Meanwhile, NGO Transparency International called for stricter measures to regulate the financial sector and their participants, including real estate brokers, lawyers and bankers.

Updated: November 6, 2017 — 2:36 pm

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