INDIA. Mumbai: The Justice (Retd) R. M. Lodha Committee has refunded Rs.831.78 crore to 18.43 lakh investors duped by the Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited (PACL) till now, thus giving a respite to the microscopic majority of investors.
Over 5.50 crore investors await the refund of their money in a Rs 60,000 crore fraud committed by Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and others through illegal collective investment schemes (CIS) over 18 years. Under the scheme, the PACL offered the land cheaper to investors, although the company did not possess even an inch.
The Lodha Committee, set up by the Supreme Court to sell the properties of the defunct PACL and refund money to the duped investors, Friday, in a statement, said that in response to its public notice dated March 27, it paid Rs. 384.24 crores to 5,51,909 eligible voters.
The investors included those who’s outstanding (principal) amount with PACL Ltd was more than Rs. 10,000/ and up to Rs. 15,000/-. Thus, taking into consideration earlier refunds, as of the date, the Committee has successfully affected refunds in respect of a total of 18,43,010 eligible applications with outstanding (principal) amount up to Rs. 15,000/-aggregating to Rs.831.78 crore.
Although the Committee had demanded the original certificates of investment, considering the difficulties faced by the investors in submitting original certificates, it decided to effect payment in respect of eligible applications identified after verification without insisting on original PACL Certificates.
The Committee also informed that the window for accepting original certificates was open from April 01 to August 31. Since that date has already expired, the investors should not send their original PACL certificates until the further direction of the Committee.
According to a SEBI decision dated August 22, 2014, PACL and its founders and directors were required to halt the scheme and return investor funds within three months of the order’s date. Because PACL and its nine promoters and directors failed to reimburse investors for the money they were owed, SEBI ordered the seizure of all of their assets in December 2015. The Supreme Court established the Lodha Committee on February 02, 2016.
The Lodha Committee has identified 27,133 properties of PACL located across the country and is auctioning them phase-wise to raise money. Per the Committee’s report dated March 05, 2021, the auction process was completed for 872 properties, and 113 properties were sold at Rs 89 Crore.
Besides, the Committee received Rs 3,69,20 crore by attaching the PACL’s properties in Australia on June 03, 2020, as per the order of the Federal Court, Australia.
However, some PACL properties were sold by the directors of the PACL, keeping the Committee in the dark. There have been property disputes, and some firms have taken up the issue with the Committee. They include Inox Renovables Limited, Gujarat, which has claimed the land parcels at Kovilpatti, Tamil Nadu, listed by the Committee.
The Inox has stated that certain parcels were purchased by it from Gujarat Fluro Chemicals Limited, Gujarat, to set up wind farms. Many such properties are in dispute since PACL directors sold them before the Committee was formed, and some of them were sold involving third parties even after the Committee was formed.
According to Vishal Mhetre, Secretary of the Janhit Association, spearheading the cause of the duped investors, the Committee’s process of auctioning the attached properties is very slow and does not serve as a deterrent against the PACL. Despite the notifications by revenue authorities, the respective collectors have remained lenient, and no notices are being published about the attachment of properties in local newspapers.
Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and 16 others are accused in the multi-crore rupees scam. They include Bhangoo’s wife Prem Kaur, Daughters-Sukhwinder Kaur and Barinder Kaur, sons-in-laws Gurupartap Singh and Harsatinder Singh, Directors-Mohan Lal Sehjpal, Sarvesh Kumar, Sukhdev Singh, Subrata Bhattacharya, Chander Bhushan Dhillon, Prem Seth, and Gurmeet Singh.
While Dhillon and Seth were granted bail some time back, the accused, Kanwaljit Toor, died in custody in January this year. A few months back, a Delhi court granted bail to Bhangoo and others. However, since they are wanted by the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, and other agencies, they continue to be in and out of jail.