The undistributed funds totalling over ₹25,000 crore lying with the capital markets regulator SEBI's account have come back into focus after the demise of Sahara Group's chief Subrata Roy.
Roy passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday night at the age of 75 after battling a prolonged illness.
He faced multiple regulatory and legal battles in connection with his group firms that were accused of circumventing regulations with Ponzi schemes, allegations his group always denied.
In 2011, capital markets regulator SEBI ordered two Sahara Group firms — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIREL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL) — to refund the money raised from nearly 3 crore investors through certain bonds known as Optionally Fully Convertible Bonds (OFCDs).
This order came after the regulator ruled that the funds were raised by the two firms in violation of its rules and regulations.
After a long process of appeals and cross-appeals, the Supreme Court on August 31, 2012 upheld SEBI's directions asking the two firms to refund the money collected from investors with 15% interest.
Sahara was eventually asked to deposit an estimated ₹24,000 crore with SEBI for further refund to investors, though the group has been maintaining that it had already refunded more than 95% of investors directly.
According to the capital markets regulator's latest annual report, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) issued ₹138.07 crore in refunds over 11 years to investors of two Sahara Group firms.
Meanwhile, the amount deposited in specially-opened bank accounts for the repayment has risen to more than ₹25,000 crore.
In the absence of claims from a majority of the bondholders of the two Sahara companies, the total amount refunded by SEBI inched up by just about ₹7 lakh during the last fiscal 2022-23, while the balance in SEBI-Sahara refund accounts rose by ₹1,087 crore during the year.
Going by the annual report, SEBI received 19,650 applications involving 53,687 accounts as of March 31, 2023. Of these, "refunds have been made concerning 17,526 applications involving 48,326 accounts for an aggregate amount of ₹138.07 crore, including the interest amount of ₹67.98 crore."
The remaining applications were closed due to their records not being traceable in the data provided by two Sahara Group firms.
In its previous update, SEBI had put the total amount refunded by it as of March 31, 2022, at ₹138 crore concerning 17,526 applications.
Further, SEBI said under various orders passed by the Supreme Court and the attachment orders passed by the regulator, an aggregate amount of ₹15,646.68 crore has been recovered by it as of March 31, 2023.
This amount along with the accrued interest after due refunds to the eligible bondholders was deposited in nationalised banks in terms of the judgement dated August 31, 2012, of the Supreme Court.
As of March 31, 2023, the total amount deposited in nationalised banks is around ₹25,163 crore," SEBI stated.
This amount stood at ₹24,076 crore, ₹23,191 crore, and ₹21,770.70 crore as of March 31, 2022, March 31, 2021, and March 31, 2020, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Centre in August started the process to refund ₹5,000 crore of depositors whose funds are struck in four cooperative societies of Sahara Group.
Before this, Cooperation Minister Amit Shah launched the 'CRCS-Sahara Refund Portal' in July to facilitate the return of the money to investors. Around 18 lakh depositors have been registered on the portal.
In March, the government announced that the money would be returned to 10 crore investors of the four cooperative societies within 9 months.
The announcement followed a Supreme Court order directing the transfer of ₹5,000 crore from the Sahara-SEBI refund account to the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies (CRCS).