Millennium Post

Ponzi war: Sebi may get direct search powers, phone data

With an aim to provide stronger powers to Sebi for taking on perpetrators of ponzi schemes and other fraudulent activities, the government has proposed to arm the market watchdog with direct powers to carry out search and seizure operations and for attachment of assets.

Besides, it has also been proposed to provide Sebi with powers to seek information, such as telephone call data records, from from any persons or entities in respect to any securities transaction being probed by it.

The proposals to make required amendments in the Sebi Act and other relevant regulations have been finalised after detailed consultations with Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India) and are being presented before the Union Cabinet for its approval, a senior official said.

A Cabinet note in this regard has also been circulated by the Department of Economic Affairs to other departments in the Finance Ministry, as also to the Corporate Affairs, Home, Law and Telecom ministries, along with to the Reserve Bank of India, Planning Commission and Prime Minister's Office for their comments and feedback on the proposals.

After getting the Cabinet's approval, the government plans to introduce the Securities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013 in Parliament to carry out the proposed changes for grant of stronger powers to Sebi, the official added.

Sebi has been seeking an overhaul of regulations governing its powers and mandate for a long time, given the changing nature of the securities market in general, and newer tools being used by manipulators to take gullible investors for a ride, in particular.

The government has decided to accept most of the proposals made by Sebi in this regard and the amendments would be carried out after the Cabinet approves the move and the required amendment bill is passed by the Parliament, he added.

With regard to the regulation of collective investment schemes (CIS), the proposal calls for Sebi being empowered to deal with all kinds of investment schemes involving pooling of funds totalling Rs 100 crore or more. Also, any investment scheme floated by a 'person' and not only a 'company', has been proposed to be brought under Sebi's jurisdiction for CIS activities.

The proposed amendment seeks to bring all kinds of ponzi schemes, which are thriving in various semi urban and rural areas at the expense of gullible investors, are brought under Sebi's oversight, which itself would be made much more effective to safeguard investors from being defrauded.

Besides, the government has also proposed to provide Sebi with direct powers to conduct search and seizure with authorisation from its chairman. Currently, Sebi can conduct search and seizure only after approval from the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, but this provision is often seen to delay proceedings and hamper the confidential nature of probe.
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