SEBI slaps ₹10 lakh fine in WhatsApp-based investment scam

PTI New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 29, 2017

Markets watchdog SEBI has imposed a penalty totalling ₹10 lakh on two individuals for providing unregistered investment advisory services through WhatsApp messages.

A probe conducted by SEBI found that ‘trading tips’ were being offered to investors through WhatsApp messages by two individuals — Mansoor Rafiq Khanda and Firoz Rafiq Khanda — while promising guaranteed returns.

They were providing such investment advisory services without obtaining registration from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

According to SEBI, the two individuals appear to have solicited and induced investors through WhatsApp and websites to deal in securities on the basis of their investment advice and stock trading tips and also guaranteed unrealistic returns.

It is possible that some gullible investors could be easily lured by the contents mentioned through such messages, it noted.

“I conclude that the noticees carried out unregistered investment advisory services and are in violation of ...IA (Investment Advisor) regulation.

“I conclude that activities carried out by the noticees have violated provisions of...the PFTUP (Prohibition of Fraudulent and unfair Trade Practices) regulations,” SEBI Adjudicating Officer Sangeeta Rathod said in an order dated November 28.

Accordingly, the regulator levied a fine of ₹10 lakh on the Khandas. In October 2016, SEBI had ordered impounding unlawful gains of over ₹5 crore from Khandas and their associated firms.

Interim order

The regulator, in an interim order in June 2014, had asked these individuals as well as their associated companies to cease and desist from acting as investment advisors and not to solicit or undertake such activities or any other unregistered activity in the securities market.

SEBI had begun its probe after receipt of complaints that certain entities were offering trading tips through Short Message Service (SMS) and WhatsApp messages sent from various mobile numbers, as also some websites.

In these messages, the investors were being promised 200 per cent assured returns on deposit payments of ₹25,000, along with promise for trading tips. The messages also promised monthly gains of ₹25-50 lakh.

Based on the complaint, SEBI undertook a preliminary examination by making telephone calls to the concerned mobile numbers and were directed to make necessary payments through a website.

SEBI had said that the modus operandi involved sending SMSes to investors with inducing claims and citing references to the website addresses, inviting prospective investors to enrol with them for their investment advisory services for a registration fee; followed by the registered clients being provided trading tips on “consideration/profit sharing” basis.

Published on November 29, 2017
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