Sebi refers Q Shop probe to Maharashtra govt

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) (pictured) has said it has probed the activities of Sahara Q-shop and found these do not fall under purview of its Collective Investment Scheme (CIS) regulations. It has referred the matter to Maharashtra government for action under its investor protection laws. The reply came last week in the matter of a case filed in Allahabad High Court by IPS officer Amitabh Thakur and his wife Nutan Thakur. 

In separate letters, dated October 17, addressed to Thakurs, Sebi said, “The matter had been examined by Sebi with respect to applicability of Section 11AA of Sebi Act, 1992, read with Sebi CIS regulations, 1999, and found that the activities of Sahara Q-shop Unique  Products Range Ltd do not fall under the regulatory purview of Sebi CIS regulations, 1999.”

The letter added the complaints were referred to the government of Maharashtra “for necessary action under Maharashtra protection of interest of Depositors Act, 1999, Prize Chit and Money Circulation (Banning) Act, 1978, and Indian Penal Code.

A Sahara group spokesperson did not respond.

Amitabh Thakur told Business Standard he would pursue the matter with Maharashtra government since Sebi has referred to specific laws under which this matter needs to be examined. “It is the duty of the Maharashtra government to register a case and investigate,” he added. 

The Sebi communication comes at a time when a Sahara lawyer expressed hope of early resolution of its dispute with Sebi in the housing bonds case, under which the group has submitted a road map for payment of dues to Sebi before the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday.

Sahara had launched its schemes under a company called Sahara Q-shop Unique Products Range when the SC was in the process of passing its final order, pertaining to money raised by Sahara Housing Invest Corp and Sahara India Real Estate in August 2012. The group had roped in top Indian cricketers, including Sachin Tendulkar, to endorse Q-shop, which it had positioned as an anti-adulteration initiative. 

In October 2012, Sebi itself had issued prominent newspaper advertisements at that time, asking investors to stay away from 

Q-shop and had warned investors not to move investments from Sahara Housing Invest and Sahara Real Estate to Q-shop. 

In the advertisements, the regulator had asked investors “not to yield to any pressure from any person, including Sahara or its agents, for converting or switching their existing investments in the bonds to any of the other schemes like Q-shop, etc.”

Thakur and his wife NutanThakur had moved a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court after their complaints about Q-shop did not find any response from regulators, including Sebi and ministry of corporate affairs. 

The Thakurs had bought two Sahara Q-shop advances where they were told by Sahara staff that after six years, they would get Rs 2,335 in return of Rs 1,000 deposited by them. A scheme chart was provided which said Rs 1,000 would have a redemption value of Rs 2,354 after six years. But the general terms and conditions (of the scheme) said this plan was merely an advance for buying goods, the Thakurs had said.

In their prayer, the Thakurs had requested the high court, to direct Sebi, the ministries of corporate affairs and consumer affairs to inquire into the allegations and take action. 

The court had issued notices to Sebi and others in 2013. In February 2015, after hearing the representations, the court had directed Sebi to probe the complaints and pass necessary orders

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