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Most suspected shell firms get clean chit, 12 picked for forensic audit

Of 331 companies, 48 are listed on the NSE. Of this, 34 companies are active and 14 companies have been suspended.

Shrimi Choudhary  |  Mumbai 

shell firms, blackmoney, income tax, investigation, crackdown
Illustration by Binay Sinha

Three months after suspending trade in 331 suspected shell companies, the capital market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), has decided to take the investigation forward, but through forensic of only 10-12 firms.

According to sources, the stock exchanges have examined the credentials provided by these firms and submitted their report to the market regulator. After analysing the report, has picked only two out of the 48 suspected firms listed on the (NSE) for Only eight out of 162 on the have been picked for

Sources say the rest of the firms have been given a in the matter, after verifying their documents.

“Barring 12 companies, who have got relief from the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), the has sought details from 36 to verify credentials and fundamentals.

Documents to be submitted by these firms include the auditor’s certificate, annual income tax returns for three years, and description of pending tax disputes. were also asked to provide status reports on compliance with the Act and Sebi’s listing regulations,” said a person privy to the development.

After examining the documents, have also been given a personal hearing. Based on the facts, the report has been submitted to Sebi, he added.

The exchanges had appointed a panel of auditors to conduct forensic auditing. Sources said it would take a few months to conclude the auditing of the shortlisted firms.

“Of 331 companies, 48 are listed on the Of this, 34 are active and 14 have been suspended. has directed the to conduct forensic on two — ARSS Infrastructure Projects and Nu Tek India. The has initiated the For the remaining 22 companies, examination of documents submitted by them is in process,” said an spokesperson said in an email response. Emails sent to and the did not elicit any response.

Experts said the outcome isn’t surprising as the action initiated by was not after an investigation or findings.

“Sebi’s does not disclose on what basis the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has classified these as ‘shell companies’. This has created confusion among stakeholders of the respective should have properly communicated the criteria or the event on the basis of which they suspended trading in these forms. This is unfair to the companies, especially the minority shareholders,” said Shriram Subramanian, managing director, Ingovern, a proxy firm. On August 7, the market regulator had directed the exchanges to suspend the suspected firms. The 331 were identified by the MCA.

The regulator was of the view that those firms identified as shell and sent for forensic could be potentially involved in the misrepresentation, including of their financials and businesses in violation of listing regulation. had also directed that trade in all the listed securities shall be placed in Stage-VI of the Graded Surveillance Measure (GSM) with immediate effect.

However, the temporarily stayed the trading ban on 12 who approached the tribunal. After demonetisation, the government has claimed to deregister and shut down more than 175,000 shell

The Story so far...

  • on August 7 suspended the trading of 331 suspected shell firms
  • Action was taken on names provided by the MCA
  • temporarily stayed the trading ban on 12 firms
  • directed exchanges to verify reports
  • Stock exchanges submitted report
  • has ordered forensic in 10-12 companies
  • Of 48 firms listed on the NSE, only 2 have undergone audit; has initiated in 7-8 firms

First Published: Fri, December 08 2017. 09:03 IST