As many as over 1.27 million investors of PACL Ltd, with a claim of up to Rs10,000, have received more than Rs438 crore, says market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
The Justice Lodha committee is supervising the SC-ordered process of selling PACL's assets across the country and refunding Rs49,100 crore collected from over 55 million investors.
"As on 31 March 2021, the committee has successfully effected refunds in respect of 12,70,849 eligible applications (with claims up to Rs10,000) aggregating to Rs 438.34 crore," SEBI says.
SEBI’s investigations had earlier revealed that PACL, which had raised money from the public in the name of agriculture and real estate businesses, collected more than Rs60,000 crore through illegal collective investment schemes (CISs) over 18 years. Moneylife
had extensively reported on the PACL scam and you can read it here
In February 2019, a committee headed by retired justice Lodha had initiated the process of refunds in phases for investors, who had invested in PACL. PACL (or Pearls) is one of the largest Ponzi schemes in India which had been allowed to run for decades amassing over Rs60,000 crore. The committee had asked PACL investors to submit online applications for refund.
The Lodha committee has been processing applications received from investors in a phased manner, slab-wise and, currently, applications with claim amount up to Rs10,000 have been processed and payments have been made in respect of eligible claim applications.
The documents uploaded by the PACL investors are verified and then payment amount is calculated, applications processed and subsequently payments are processed.
The committee had also granted investors, having claims up to Rs10,000 and whose applications were found deficient, an opportunity to check status/ deficiencies in their applications and rectify the errors so that the applications could be processed till 31 March 2021.
Now, the opportunity to rectify errors in the claim applications is not available and investors may await further notification from the committee in this regard, SEBI says.
Further, SEBI says, "The applications where investors have indicated marked land allotted field as 'Yes' or where land has been allotted to the investor as per records provided by PACL, have been kept on hold and will be taken up for consideration at a later stage.”
SEBI also clarified that the processing of cases where 'deferred/ endorsed' has been mentioned on the PACL certificate has been kept on hold.
The mobilisation of funds by PACL goes back prior to 1997. Upon receipt of a complaint, SEBI on 30 November 1999 and 10 December 1999 issued letters asking PACL to comply with the provisions of the collective investment scheme (CIS) regulations.
In September 2018, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a charge-sheet against PACL and its chief Nirmal Singh Bhangoo in connection with a Ponzi scam involving over Rs49,100 crore, which was collected allegedly by two companies from millions of investors. The ED, which started the probe after lodging an first information report (FIR) in 2015 based on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)'s case, had, in January 2018, attached Australia-based assets of the Pearls group and Mr Bhangoo worth Rs472 crore.
Mr Bhangoo, his companies PACL and Pearls Golden Forest Ltd (PGFL), as well as several thousands of his commission agents were accused of cheating 55 million investors on the pretext of sale and development of agriculture land.
The companies made false allotments of land to investors. However, the companies never owned any land in their own name.
Mr Bhangoo and his companies promised the investors that allotment would be done on their investment between 90 and 270 days and, if not, handsome returns would be paid.