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SC seeks details of amount collected, disbursed to investors of ponzi schemes of PACL

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New Delhi, Jan 23 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked market regulator SEBI and the court-appointed expert panel headed by former CJI RM Lodha to provide the latest details about the sale of assets of Pearls Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL), refund status and the dues of the firm's investors that are yet to be paid.

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PACL and its promoters and directors, including Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, have been embroiled in a legal battle for their alleged failure to refund Rs 49,100 crore collected through chit fund schemes to investors.

A bench comprising justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal took note of the submission of senior advocate Pratap Venugopal, appearing for the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), that the regulator was willing to file the latest report on the steps it has taken so far and the one prepared by the expert committee headed by Justice Lodha.

Taking note of Venugopal's submission, the bench sought the status of the proceedings conducted so far by the SEBI and the panel.

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It also sought the details of the money realised so far from the sale of PACL's assets, amount disbursed and the outstanding dues of the investors.

The bench has fixed the matter for further hearing on February 13.

Meanwhile, it extended till March 31 the tenure of R S Virk, a former district judge, who was entrusted by the expert committee with the task of deciding the objections to the proposed sale of PACL properties for realising money for repayment to hassled investors.

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The market regulator, by its final order of August 22, 2014, held that PACL mobilised Rs 49,100 crore from investors in violation of the SEBI – Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) Regulations, directed the firm to wind up the chit-fund schemes, and refund the money along with returns to the investors.

The Securities Appellate Tribunal dismissed the PACL's appeal and upheld SEBI's order on August 12, 2015.

Pursuant to dismissal of the plea, the market regulator initiated recovery proceedings against PACL and its promoters, directors and attached bank and demat accounts of alleged defaulters.

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The matter reached the top court, which on February 2, 2016, directed SEBI to constitute a committee under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India Lodha for disposing of the land parcels purchased by PACL so that the sale proceeds can be paid to the investors.

The top court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to hand over the title deeds of properties of the company it had attached while investigating alleged illegal money mobilisation.

Till August 2022, the Justice Lodha Committee had recovered Rs 878.20 crore by disposing of the immovable assets of PACL for making refunds to the investors cheated by the company, according to CBI.

The CBI has handed over 42,950 property documents to the committee, besides 79 luxury cars including Rolls Royce, Porsche Cayenne, Bentley and BMW 7-series, the probe agency had said.

The PACL, also known as Pearl Group, which had raised money from the public for agriculture and real estate businesses, was found by SEBI to have collected more than Rs 49,100 crore through illegal collective investment schemes (CIS) over a period of 18 years. PTI SJK SJK SK SK

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