March 14, 2014
CBI has launched a preliminary enquiry against former Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) chairman C B Bhave and ex-member K M Abraham, a rare move of investigations against top functionaries of regulatory bodies.
Apart from the two former SEBI officials, CBI is also probing MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) founder Jignesh Shah, his firm Financial Technologies India Ltd and other unknown officials in a case involving alleged irregularities by SEBI in giving approvals to MCX-SX in 2008 and renewing the recognition in 2009 and 2010.
This is perhaps the first time that two top functionaries of a regulatory entity have come under CBI scrutiny although no cases have been registered against the two officials. Currently, the case is at preliminary level.
The development came on a day when CBI teams carried out nationwide searches after registering a case against National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL), Shah and others in alleged irregularities in handling investments of state-run trading company PEC and causing a loss of Rs 120 crore.
The enquiry is said to be an offshoot of the NSEL probe, said sources. FTIL and NSEL are being probed by multiple agencies after a Rs 5,500 crore payment crisis at the commodity exchange last July.
The agency will try to ascertain how MCX-SX was granted permission despite opposition by SEBI when Bhave headed the market regulator. MCX-SX was set up by Shah-led FTIL and its commodity exchange arm MCX, and began functioning as a full-fledged stock exchange last year after a prolonged battle with SEBI.
In 2008, the exchange was initially granted permission only to help companies hedge their currency risks. But it came with the rider that the licence would require annual approvals. Last year, SEBI asked MCX-SX to restructure its board and governance structure after the NSEL crisis.
Bhave became SEBI chairman in February 2008 and his three-year term ended in February 2011. Abraham's term as a whole-time member of SEBI also ended in 2011.
Incidentally, in 2011, Abraham had written to the Prime Minister's Office that SEBI was being pressurized by the finance ministry to go easy on some companies, including MCX and Sahara, against whom he had passed orders. However, these charges were rejected by the finance ministry and SEBI.