By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, October 05
Despite directions of the Supreme Court (SC) to sell the properties of the Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited (PACL), only by public auction, to recover nearly Rs. 49,100 crore of over 5.50 crore duped investors, the clandestine sale of the company’s properties is going on, as evident from the recent sale of a plot located at Raigad in Maharashtra.
The SC directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to set up a committee to ensure the refund of investors’ money while dealing with Civil Application (No. 13301 of 2015) filed by Subrata Bhattacharya, one of the directors of PACL, SEBI set up the Chief Justice (Rtd) R M Lodha Committee, as per directions of the SC on February 02, 2016. The Committee ordered the sale of PACL’s assets from July 25, 2016 onwards.
So far the Committee has recovered Rs 878.20 crore by disposing of PACL’s immovable assets (out of 29088 attached properties across the country). It has also recovered Rs 59.92 crore from PACL’s directors. Simultaneously the Committee refunded Rs. 919. 91 crore to over 1.96 lakh investors. Now the recoverable amount has swelled up to nearly Rs 60,000 with interest.
In all other agencies including the CBI have handed over 42,950 property documents to the Lodha committee. Besides, 79 luxury cars from Pearls Golden Forest (affiliate of PACL) PGF and PACL including Rolls Royce, Porsche Cayenne, Bentley, BMW 7-series have been handed over to the Committee.
Now a clandestine sale of plots of land admeasuring 11640 and 9630 square mtrs (survey No 65/2/A and 65/2/K) located at Kharsundi village has come to light. These plots were listed at MR.No.25428/16 by the Lodha Committee, in the list of auction of seized properties. A complaint has been lodged by “Janhit Association”, a body of investors, with revenue authorities pointing out that the plots belonging to PACL’s subsidiary-“Wildoak Infrastructure and Projects Private Limited”, were sold by its director Richi Aggarwal (40) to a family keeping the Lodha Committee in dark.
Sale of plots
The plots were sold to a family– Bhagwan Nathaji Batule (55), Chhabu B Batule (52) and Nitin B Batule (28) for Rs 3.60 crore (Registration No. 4437/2023 dated September 12 recorded with Office of the Sub Registrar, Khalapur, Raigad). The office bearers of the Janhit Association- Ganesh Khandwe and Vishal Mhetre, in a letter dated September 21, to the Talathi, Kharsundi, Khalapur, have pointed out that registration of the above sale is in contempt of court and as such the registration of sale should be cancelled.
The others residing on these plots have awarded a Rs 50 lakh contract to extract gravel from the plot to one Laxman Kisan Gaikwad and as such that amount earned should be recovered and deposited with the Lodha Committee, the Janhit Association has demanded. The clandestine sale of other plots located at Juhu, Mumbai, Koregaon, Pune (Maharashtra), and Anekal taluka, Bengaluru(Karnataka) was revealed a few months back, with authorities trying to retrieve the sold property.
In the meanwhile the Lodha Committee has invited applications for refund from eligible investors who invested Rs 16,000 to Rs 19,000 with PACL. The applications should be sent by current month end to the Committee’s office at BKC, Mumbai.
PACL was incorporated on February 13, 1996, in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and offered land at cheaper rates to investors under the ponzy scheme, although it did not possess even an inch anywhere in the country. SEBI directed PACL to wind up on August 22, 2014, and attached its assets in December 2015. CBI arrested four PACL officials, on December 11, 2016. The Enforcement Directorate filed a charge sheet against PACL in September 2018 and attached its assets in Australia. SEBI filed a claim petition in the Federal Court of Australia (FCA) and received Rs 3,69,20,34,883/- under an order of the FCA dated June 03, 2020. The prime accused Nirmal Singh Bhangoo and 15 others have been convicted in PACL case. One of the accused Kanwaljit Toor, died in custody last year.