Income Tax may probe 20 entities over Adani share profits


NEW DELHI: The income-tax department may probe several domestic and overseas entities for tax evasion over profits from short-selling shares of companies belonging to the Adani Group following the controversial Hindenburg Research report on the conglomerate published in January, even as the market regulator investigates possible collusion between the firm and at least 20 entities, including security firms and media professionals, at least four people aware of the development said.

During investigation by ED, it was also found that many of these firms did not report their windfall gains during this period to the income-tax department (Bloomberg File)

The market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), is basing its investigation party on a report from the Enforcement Directorate that said that certain entities seem to have had prior information about the report and gained materially by short-selling stocks of the Adani Group, with some other people, including journalists, helping amplify the content of the report, they said, requesting anonymity.

A senior ED official, who asked not to be quoted, told HT that their probe was incidental. “The intelligence wing of our agency got some information in July about this. Since Sebi was probing it, we immediately sent the report to them. Now, if they file a complaint on this, then we can probe further. We are awaiting directions from them and the court,’’ he said, adding, “a large number of investors were impacted and that’s why we are concerned.”

Some of them are securities firms, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) and foreign institutional investors (FIIs) based out of London, Ireland, France, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Cayman Islands.

Domestic entities include a private financial institution that also has a group company providing banking facilities, and two Delhi-based brokerage firms, the people said without naming any of the entities. To be sure, short-selling is not illegal in these geographies.

“Not only the matter is subjudice, but investigations by multiple agencies are on, hence specific details and particular names cannot be disclosed at this stage,” one of the people, a government official, said.

“During the investigation by ED, it was also found that many of these firms did not report their windfall gains during this period to the income-tax department. The matter is also under investigation by the income-tax department as agencies have arrangements for real-time exchange of intelligence,” a second official said. The Union finance ministry is the administrative ministry of both ED and the I-T department.

The ministry of finance, Hindenburg Research and the Adani Group did not respond to email queries seeking comment.

A third person, a legal expert, said: “Prima facie a larger conspiracy of financial nature is visible. Overseas entities are attacking Indian entities both for economic gains and geo-political reasons.

(News agency) PTI reported that George Soros-backed OCCRP (Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) could release a similar report on some Indian corporate houses ahead of the G20 Leadership Summit and the General Elections.”

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has already shared key findings in its investigation report with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), which is conducting a detailed probe into the Adani-Hindenburg matter, a fourth person aware of the investigation.

HT on August 15 reported that Sebi on August 14 approached the Supreme Court, seeking an extension of 15 days to conclude its investigation into allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud against the Adani group made by US short-seller Hindenburg Research.

The Supreme Court is likely to take up the matter on September 1 or 4.

By an order on May 17, the court had directed Sebi to complete its probe by August 14. Stating that “it has progressed substantially”, the market regulator said the extension will enable it to submit the final status report on 24 matters it has probed in connection with the report by Hindenburg, the HT report said.

The Hindenburg report claimed “brazen accounting fraud” and “stock manipulation” by the Gautam Adani-led group. Though the conglomerate rejected the report as “unresearched” and “maliciously mischievous”, it triggered a massive rout of Adani group stocks, which lost about $150 billion in days and forced the cancellation of a 20,000 crore share sale in the group’s flagship.


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