The Adani group on Thursday denied allegations made by an investigative reporting platform - Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) - that reportedly had documents showing that the promoters of the conglomerate had invested billions of dollars to buy its own shares through opaque funds based in Mauritius.
According to the reports in Financial Times and The Guardian, the OCCRP documents named two ‘mysterious’ persons, Nasser Ali Shaban Ahli, and Chang Chung-Ling, with longtime business ties to the family and who had served as directors and shareholders in Adani Group firms and entities associated with one of the family’s senior members, Vinod Adani, older brother of Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani.
The reports said that in January 2017, Ahli and Chang secretly controlled at least 13 per cent of the free float in three of the four Adani companies listed at the time, including the group’s flagship Adani Enterprises.
“We categorically reject these recycled allegations. These news reports appear to be yet another concerted bid by Soros-funded interests supported by a section of the foreign media to revive the meritless Hindenburg report,” an Adani group statement said.
The allegations made by George Soros-backed OCCRP were carried by The Guardian and The Financial Times to whom the documents were released.
One of the funds named in the report, Mauritius-based fund 360 ONE Asset Management (Mauritius), also denied the allegations. In an exchange filing 360 ONE WAM Ltd, which is listed on the Indian bourses, said, “360 ONE Asset Management (Mauritius) Ltd is the investment manager for Emerging India Focus Fund and EM Resurgent Fund; both of which are fully compliant broad-based funds registered with Financial Services Commission, Mauritius.”
It added, “In neither of these two funds, the Adani group or any of the individuals mentioned in the article, are investors. These funds as on date have zero investments in any of the shares of the Adani Group.” It said that in the past, the funds had investments in Adani group stocks as part of portfolio investments, but they were all sold in 2018.
The Adani group also said that these reports were attempts to generate profits by driving down stock prices of the Adani group “and these short-sellers are under investigations by various authorities.”
In its investigations, OCCRP said it found at least two cases where Ahli and Chung-Ling bought and sold Adani stock through offshore structures. The report said that the two, “spent years buying and selling Adani stock through offshore structures that obscured their involvement and made considerable profits in the process.”
Referring to files from several tax havens and internal mails of the Adani group, it said that the documents “show that the management company in charge of their investments paid a Vinod Adani company to advise them in their investment”.
The ORCCP allegations come nearly seven months after the Hindenburg Research report in January that accused the group of price manipulation, round tripping through a complex network of firms and corporate governance lapses. It resulted in over $130 billion of market capitalisation of Adani group stocks being eroded. The Adani group denied the allegations and went into damage control mode by holding interviews with media and conducting investor roadshows in India and abroad.
While the findings by a Supreme Court appointed committee were inconclusive, a probe by SEBI is ongoing and is in the final stages.