Free Press Journal

MCX-SX case: CBI quizzes ex-SEBI chief, may question present head


New Delhi: Two months after registering a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) to probe granting sanction to Jignesh Shah-founded Financial Technologies (India) and MCX-SX, CBI today quizzed former SEBI chairman C B Bhave and plans to investigate the complete process of allowing Shah’s bourse to function as a full-fledged private stock exchange.

The CBI move to investigate the complete process of regularisation of Shah’s exchange may now include examining of present chairman of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) U K Sinha as well, official sources said.

“I welcome that they were not picking and choosing and were looking at the entire time up to 2013,” Bhave told PTI while reacting to CBI’s questioning which took place in Bangalore.

Bhave had a bone to pick up with the visiting CBI team when he told them that the agency’s “leak about the PE focused just on me and (another former SEBI member K M) Abraham and a deliberate impression was created that CBI investigation related only to the period during which Abraham and I were there.”

“The CBI clarified that they would look at those extensions as well. They were limiting their questions to me for the period that I was there,” he said.

Bhave was examined by a team of CBI officers two months after the agency registered a PE against him, another former member K M Abraham and FTIL and MCX-SX, among others.

Bhave denied any quid pro quo as alleged by CBI for grant of permission to the bourse and said “there was not a single question to me on quid pro quo. They wanted to understand the public interest involved in granting the licence to MCX-SX to trade in currency derivatives.”

They also wanted to know if any undue pecuniary benefit to Jignesh Shah entities was the result of this decision, he said.

Bhave, a 1975 batch IAS officer from Maharashtra, was quizzed three days after Abraham was examined by CBI last Friday. He was 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.  The CBI was told that competition in the exchange space was in public interest especially when BSE was unable to provide that competition.

“They were also told that whether other entities benefitted by this or not, was not of concern to the regulator. The regulator’s concern is whether the licence was in the public interest or not,” he said.

The CBI questions related to extensions given in 2009 and 2010 which were explained by Bhave. “I also asked them why they were not concerned about subsequent extensions of 2011, 2012 and 2013, especially when the 2013 extension was given when the NSEL scam was out in the open,” he said, adding after this, CBI informed that they would be probing the entire case.

MCX-SX was set up by FTIL and its commodity exchange arm MCX and began functioning as a full-fledged stock exchange last year after a prolonged battle with SEBI.

The exchange was initially granted permission for only a limited segment of currency derivatives in 2008, on the condition that its licence would require approval every year.

Last year, SEBI asked MCX-SX to restructure its board and governance structure after a payment crisis broke out at the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL), also promoted by FTIL.

Incidentally, Abraham had written in 2011 to the Prime Minister’s Office that SEBI was being pressured by the Finance Ministry to go easy on some corporates, including MCX and Sahara, against whom he had passed orders.

However, these charges were rejected by the Finance Ministry as also SEBI.

MCX-SX was initially given licence to operate in a limited segment of currency derivatives in 2008, but SEBI refused permission to allow it to act as a full-fledged bourse for years as it was not found to be in compliance with existing regulations for the same.

It was Abraham’s order in September 2010 that rejected MCX-SX application for a full-fledged exchange, saying it was not in compliance with shareholding regulations and it was not a ‘fit and proper’ entity for such a business.

MCX-SX could launch services as a full-fledged bourse only last year after it met all the necessary regulations and conditions imposed by SEBI.

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