Hitting back at Sebi, embattled Sahara group today said issuance of advertisements would not help the regulator reach out to the investors spread across remote parts of the country and offered its help in verifying 95 per cent bondholders it claims to have already refunded.
"The proof of the pudding is in eating. Sahara is confident that verification will prove not only the existence of the investors but also Sahara will get all its money which is with Sebi," the group said in a statement.
This follows comments made by Sebi's Whole-Time Member S Raman yesterday on the sidelines of a conference in Mumbai, where he wondered why not many claimants were coming forward to get back the money in the high-profile Sahara case.
"As far as Sahara is concerned, we have a decent amount of money but not many claimants. That is a question mark, as to why there are no claimants despite the fact that we have made multiple advertisements seeking applications to pay the money," he had said.
Terming his comments as "misguiding and irresponsible", Sahara accused Sebi of indulging in 'media trial' on Sahara- Sebi matter when the case was 'sub-judice'.
It said the regulator was not finding many claimants because "Sebi in four years has not initiated on-ground verification of the investors".
The group further said that Sebi has issued four newspaper advertisements directed towards only those investors who have yet to get refund. But, "the majority 95 per cent who have already got back their money are neither addressed in these advertisements nor will they anyway, bother to reply to Sebi (even if asked) as they have already got their money refunded from Sahara."
"Besides, it is imperative to understand that almost entire majority of Sahara investors (including the remaining 5 per cent investors) reside in the remote parts of rural India and are mostly illiterate or barely literate.
"Many of them live in mud houses, hutments and even slums, where there are no street names or house numbers (as there are no municipalities in small villages to allot house numbers, etc). Therefore, instead of merely issuing advertisements, a more serious and detailed approach should be adopted by Sebi to reach out to our investors," it said.
The group further said "Sahara with its more than 12 lakh workers has an unparalleled reach to investors".
Citing the Supreme Court order that Sebi can take help of Sahara for verification of investors, the group said, "It is not possible to reach out to these small investors and Sahara is always ready to assist Sebi in reaching out to the aforesaid investors."
Sahara is engaged in a long-running dispute with the Sebi over schemes involving raising of funds from public through certain bonds and the group was asked to return thousands of crores along with interest to the investors through the regulator.
"The entire desire of ours is to distribute as much money as possible," Raman had said.
Reacting to Raman's comments about Sahara giving truckloads of documents not connected to one another and the regulator undertaking the gargantuan task of sifting through those, Sahara said the group was asked to send all the document pertaining to 3 crore investors to Sebi in 10 days.
"The OFCD (bonds through which money was raised) was not closed and in fact in process of refund to a large number of investors was on. In this scenario many of the document were at our head office while a big number of documents were at our more than 4,000 branches.
"Keeping in mind the time limit of 10 days, we collected all the original documents as it is from all our offices across India and had sent the same to Sebi is boxes through 127 trucks," Sahara said in a detailed statement.
Stating that there was no fault on Sahara's part, it further said, "The documents of 3 crore investors cannot be handful and quite understandably will be huge in number because it contains the proofs of repayments of three crore investors - original repayment vouchers, receipts, KYC and other relevant documents.”
"Further, Sahara had in fact offered Sebi to help in the collation of documents and stationed its 50 officials in Sebi's Mumbai office to assist the market regulator. We were even ready to increase the number of officials to many hundred, but Sebi has refused to take their help. "Moreover, Sebi refused to take around 25 per cent of the documents which are still lying in our warehouses in Mumbai," it added.
It further accused Sebi of not having made "any serious effort" to start the verification even after two years of having claimed to have successfully organized the documents.
It further asserted that verification of "documented proofs" provided by Sahara would prove that all its "investors actually exist".
The group said the amount deposited so far with Sebi is more than Rs 14,000 crore, including interest earned, and recently it has given additional Rs 500 crore, though Sebi has refunded only Rs 55 crore.