Millennium Post

Investors with claims up to Rs 7k asked to rectify pleas by Oct-end

New Delhi: After having returned just Rs 268 crore to investors of the whopping Rs 60,000 crore illegally collected by the PACL group in what came to be known as India's largest chit fund scheme, a high-powered committee looking to get the refunds to duped investors on Thursday asked investors with claims of up to Rs 7,000 to rectify errors in the applications by the end of the month.

The company, under the garb of running a host of businesses ranging from real estate, agriculture to even television news, had over nearly two decades continued collecting funds from the public with the promise of high returns despite several red flags raised by regulatory authorities. While the SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) had reported PACL as running an illegal investment scheme sometime in 2014, the CBI had managed to arrest founding director Nirmal Singh Bhangoo only 17 months after this.

While Bhangoo and his associates were booked, arrested and their premises raided by probe authorities in both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, the probe is yet to reach its logical conclusion. Bhangoo was later shifted to a jail in Mohali in his home state of Punjab. While the ED has discovered money-laundering trails going into hotels and properties in Australia, it has attached around Rs 472 crore in properties and bank accounts in the case.

Both the ED and the CBI have filed a chargesheet in the case but both agencies insist that their probe is continuing. Many questions have also been raised over how PACL was allowed to run the biggest Ponzi scheme right from the Capital. This has led to questions on the subsequent investigations as well.

Now, a portal has been made operational for such investors to view the status of their claim applications. A panel, headed by retired Justice R M Lodha, has been set up to manage refunds for investors who invested money in PACL.

In July, the committee had provided a facility to investors with claim amounts between Rs 5,001 and Rs 7,000 to rectify errors in their application forms and accordingly, the web-portal was made operational from August 1. The last date for accepting such rectified applications has been fixed as October 31.

In a press release circulated by markets regulator Sebi on Thursday, the Lodha panel said, "Investors or applicants with claims up to Rs 7,000-whose claim applications were found deficient, are again requested to expedite and rectify the deficiencies, if any, in their applications before October 31, 2020."

The panel has successfully effected refunds to the tune of over Rs 268 crore to over 9.71 lakh investors. In December 2015, Sebi had ordered attachment of all assets of PACL and its nine promoters and directors for their failure to refund investors' money. In an order in August 2014, Sebi had asked PACL, its promoters and directors to refund the money.

The defaulters were directed to wind up the schemes and refund money to investors within three months from the date of the order.

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