Ambanis seek ‘trading scam’ settlement

New Delhi, January 13 (Agencies): In what could be a coincidence, the two Ambani groups have separately approached SEBI for settlement of probes by the regulator in two separate cases of alleged violation of trading regulations. A settlement order is likely to be passed soon by Sebi in its probe related to Anil Ambani group firms, Reliance Infrastructure and erstwhile RNRL (which has now merged with Reliance Power), sources said. When contacted, an Anil Ambani group spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
On the other hand, elder brother Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries group has approached Sebi for the third time for a settlement in the probe involving alleged violation of insider trading norms way back in 2007 in the dealings of shares of now-delisted subsidiary Reliance Petroleum (RPL). Queries made to an RIL spokesperson were unanswered. RIL’s consent to the settlement appeal in this case has previously been turned down twice as Sebi did not agree to consent fee that was offered to settle the case, sources said.
The last two appeals were made by RIL in August 2010 and November 2009. Sebi is said to have assessed the illegal gains from the alleged insider trading at over Rs 500 crore and had found the offered consent fee very less in those appeals. It could not be ascertained as how much Mukesh Ambani group offered to pay as consent fees in its latest appeal. Interestingly, the probes related to both the groups are regarding transactions that occurred way back in 2007 and investigations were initiated by the Sebi in both cases on the basis of anonymous complaints.
SEBI had begun quasi-judicial proceedings against RIL after it found violations in insider trading regulations pursuant to its investigation in the trading pattern in the RPL stock for the period between November 1-29, 2007. A subsidiary of RIL, RPL was merged with the parent in 2009 and subsequently delisted from the stock market. Sebi first issued show-cause notices to RIL in this matter in May 2009, while the initial probe began in early 2008.
The other case involves a probe into certain market “dealings” by the two Anil Ambani group companies – Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Natural Resources. In this case, R-Infra, RNRL, along with some top group executives including Chairman Anil Ambani, were issued notices several times in the second half of 2010 to appear for personal hearing before the SEBI. While SEBI, in its notice did not clarify what “dealings” by RNRL and R-Infra it was probing into, various agencies, including Enforcement Directorate, have been investigating alleged irregularities in overseas debt instrument transactions by the two companies way back in 2007.