Gautam Adani: India court declines new inquiry against billionaire

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Indian billionaire Gautam Adani faces critical report before family-run company goes public.IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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The Hindenburg report was published days before the family-run company was set to go public

India’s top court has rejected pleas to set up a new panel to investigate a US firm’s allegations of fraud against billionaire Gautam Adani’s companies.

In January, Hindenburg Research had accused the firm of “brazen” stock manipulation and accounting fraud.

The court set up a committee in March to oversee an investigation by India’s market regulator into the allegations.

In May, the panel said the regulator had so far “drawn a blank” in the inquiry.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the regulator to finish its investigation within three months.

Mr Adani, who has always denied any wrongdoing, said “truth had prevailed” after the court’s ruling.

Petitioners had alleged that India’s market watchdog – the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) – which had been directed by the court to investigate the allegations, was not doing a proper job.

They also claimed that there was a “conflict of interest” among some members in the court-appointed panel.

Rejecting their plea, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said there were “no grounds” for the investigation to be transferred to a special team and directed Sebi to complete its investigation in a timely manner.

“The power to transfer investigation must be exercised in exceptional circumstances. Such powers cannot be exercised in the absence of cogent justifications,” he said.

He also rejected the argument that there was a conflict of interest among members of the court-appointed panel and added that newspaper reports and investigations by third-party organisations cannot be held as conclusive evidence to question Sebi’s findings.

In its report, Hindenburg – which specialises in “short-selling”, or betting against a company’s share price in the expectation that it will fall – accused Mr Adani of “pulling the largest con in corporate history”.

The report questioned the Adani Group’s ownership of companies in offshore tax havens such as Mauritius and the Caribbean.

It also claimed Adani companies had “substantial debt” which put the entire group on a “precarious financial footing”.

The Adani Group denied the allegations, calling the report “malicious” and said that it had always been “in compliance with all laws”.

The allegations triggered a meltdown in Indian markets as the Adani Group’s companies saw more than $100bn (£82bn) wiped off their market value in the weeks after the report was made public.

However, their stocks have since bounced back and saw a jump in price in the hours before Wednesday’s verdict.

Mr Adani is among the richest people in the world and is perceived as being close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has long faced allegations from opposition politicians that he has benefited from his political ties, which he and Mr Modi’s party deny.

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