EXPLOSIVE: SEBI starts probe on Burmans of Dabur amid “Radha Soami’s monies” accusations

| Updated: 08 November, 2023 3:34 am IST

NEW DELHI: Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has intensified its probe on the accusations of market manipulation done by India’s oldest Ayurveda major Dabur India after the complaints with Delhi Police made startling disclosures on systematic diversion of more than Rs 1,006-crore from a core investment company Religare Enterprises Limited (REL) to Punjab’s spiritual group Radha Soami head Gurinder Dhillon based out of Beas in Amritsar.

The Burman family — Mohit Burman, Amit Burman, Gaurav Burman and Saket Burman — who run the Dabur Group, the 138-year-old FMCG company that manufactures Hajmola, Real Juices, Vatika hair oil, Chywanprash among other personal care products, has made a public offer for acquisition of shares of REL at Rs 235 per share.

A file photo from 2021 when Radha Soami Satsang Beas head Gurinder Dhillon visited then Punjab CM Charanjit Channi

The SEBI complaint accuses the Burman family of having a categorical nexus with Gurinder Dhillon and the original promoters of Fortis-Religare, that is brothers Shivinder and Malvinder Singh.

“It has been pointed out earlier, that the Burman Group acquired a 7.5% stake in the company (REL) through a block deal worth Rs 533 crore on August 16, 2023 which increased their stake from 14 % to 21.5 % in the company. Notably, the 7.5 % stake was bought by the Burman through Investment Opportunities V PTE, which in turn, had bought these shares from Resilient India Growth Limited in January 2021, which had bought these shares from the Dhillon Group (Gurinder Dhillon of Radha Soami Satsang in Beas) in December 2017. Therefore, it’s the shareholding of the Dhillon Group that has been finally acquired by Burman which further reveals nexus between acquirers with Dhillon & Singh brothers,” reads the detailed complaint by REL before SEBI.

“Whether the monies proposed to be brought by Burman Group through this takeover is flowing from Dhillon family…Only, an in-depth forensic investigation by the SEBI would reveal the source of funds,” it adds.

The investigation by the SEBI on this proposed acquisition by the Burman family, that also jointly owns IPL cricket team Punjab Kings, has begun following these sensational charges made by the board of independent directors of the REL itself, in a 99-page complaint.

The board of independent directors , that has approached the SEBI against these charges was constituted the India’s central bank Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2018.

A part of the complaint before the SEBI, by the board of independent directors of Religare including one Ms Rashmi Saluja, appointed by India’s Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

These damning revelations come barely less than three weeks after Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) separately launched mega probe into alleged fund diversion, between 2017 and 2018, from as many as  six subsidiary companies of Religare — Modland was used to divert Rs 223 crore, Devera gave Rs 122.6 crore, Fern Healthcare handed over Rs 292.5 crore, Best health care deposited Rs 207 crore, Adept and Rosestar gave Rs 152.8 and Rs 8 crore to Dera baba’s family members: Gurinder Dhillon (himself), Gurkirat, Gurpreet Dhillon, Shabnam Dhillon (deceased wife of Radha Soami Satsang Beas) — to Gurinder Dhillon and his family members including his son.

READ MORE: SENSATIONAL: As Dabur eyes Religare, Punjab’s Radha Soami chief took ₹1006 cr, company to police

CHARGES OF SHARE MANIPULATION AGAINST BURMANS

SEBI is also examining how REL’s share price has been dropping consistently from Rs 271.55 per share to Rs 235 per share with charges of “Dabur’s hostile takeover” by REL’s independent board.

“In the foregoing circumstances, it is highly probable that the present hostile takeover of REL has been carefully planned by the Burman Group. The Burman group acquired about 7.5 % of REL shares in the month of August 2023. It is verily believed that the Burman Group has there after persuaded various persons to purchase shares of REL and after the public announcement on September 25, 2023 to sell the shares so purchased at the proposed offer price of Rs 235 in order to ensure that the value of the scrip which was Rs 271.55 per share on September 29, 2023, drops consistently to the proposed offer value of, that is Rs 235 per share,” the complaint has said.

“It is the general practice that the share price of an acquiring company drops and the target company’s short-term share price tends to rise because the shareholders only agree to the deal if the purchase price exceeds their company’s share value. But REL’s share value have dropped by 11 %,” it added.

A screen grab of the SEBI complaint that accuses Burman family of the market manipulation, a charge Mohit Burman is now denying.

Firm Engaged By Burmans, J M Financial, Admits To SEBI’s Probe Last Week

Following SEBI’s investigation, the Burman family, led by Mohit Burman, through their exclusive financial advisor J M Financial, on November 4 last week, in a mail sent to REL, admitted that SEBI has begun a probe.

“….Please find below the extract of queries shared by SEBI…..1. Details of complaints received by merchant banker, if any 2. Details of penalties levelled by SEBI and RBI against the target company/promoters/manager to the offer and RTA including current status of such actions details of penalty paid. 4. Compliance status in respect of the target company with listing requirements/LODR requirements and penal actions including those levied by stock exchanges. 5. Are there any depository receipts of the shares issued in foreign countries? If yes, elaborate the process that will be adopted for tendering of those shares by the shareholders/ in other countries,” a mail by Nikhil Panjwani, on behalf of J M Financial, to Reema Jayara, Arjun Mehra and Rohang Narain at 4:01 PM on November 4, 2023, confirmed SEBI’s gamut of investigations into the entire acquisition process of Religare by the Burman family amid accusations of malpractices.

It is Panjwani whose signatures are mentioned on the open offer letter on Oct 11, 2023 , on behalf of J M Financial, that is overseeing the acquisition of upto 9 crore REL shares by the Burman family.

The New Indian tried to reach out to J M Financial on SEBI’s probe into this alleged market manipulation by the Burmans and the separate ongoing investigation by Delhi Police, or the matter being raised before the CBI and the ED into either allegations of tax frauds or financial malpractices in siphoning off bank loans or diversions. The New Indian got no responses from the employees of J M Financial. We would duly include the replies if we get any.

Despite calls and text messages over Whatsapp to Panjwani and his boss Sonia Dasgupta at J M Financials, they did not respond to the investigation on the overall accusations.

A screenshot of text message sent by The New Indian to J M Financials’ Nikhil Panjwani. He did not reply to these queries on charges of possible violations and accusations of market manipulations and subsequent probe by SEBI.

On September 25, Burman family had made a public announcement through J M Financial Ltd, that acted on behalf of  five companies — M B Finmart, Puran Associates, VIC Enterprises and Milky Investment and Trading — indicating their intention to takeover control and management of REL and its subsidiaries.

HOW BURMAN FAMILY RESPONDED TO QUERIES BY THE NEW INDIAN?

Detailed questionnaire sent to Mohit Burman yielded responses with a threatening mail from a PR company Adfactors and its representative Apurv Gupta, to The New Indian.

When asked from Gupta if the mail responses were prepared by him or the Burmans, he shifted the blame on them, he said ”Sure, I am only sharing the response from the client as shared by them. Will communicate this to them. I will check if they wd want to name any particular person as spokesperson. Usually it is attributed to spokesperson as a matter of practice.

The New Indian is including the replies received by Gupta on a mail sent to Burman at [email protected], leaving for its readers across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Google to make an honest assessment of where the Burman family stands with respect to this sensational deal.

Mohit first replied to The New Indian Executive Editor with a message, “Hi Rohan” and then on November 4, “I’m in Kolkata for the match”. While his team’s responses on accusations of links with the Radha Soami Beas dera head or Shivinder and Malvinder are attached here.

It is reiterated that your queries regarding any correspondence with the above persons are speculative and in the realm of hearsay and conjectures. Since I have already informed above that I don’t know the person – there is no question of any exchange of correspondence as alleged —  the reply by Apurv Gupta, quoting, the “spokesperson” of the Burman family  ans sent to The New Indian said.

A screen grab of key questions, related to the ongoing SEBI probe, sent by The New Indian, to globe-trotter billionaire Mohit Burman, of the Burman family of Dabur and their categorical replies through a PR firm Adfactors’ Apurv Gupta, dismissing the charges and accusations. It is not clear if the PR group AdFactors lied, or Mohit Burman or the spokesperson of Dabur Family feigned ignorance, to The New Indian that SEBI had not instituted a probe .

When The New Indian asked who the spokesperson is, PR company AdFactors’s Gupta just said “will get back” but no response was sent after that.

In its next two stories, the New Indian will also make startling disclosure on J M Financial’s links with REL promoters and Mohit Burman’s other past controversies along with the issues that Dabur International is now grappling with.

The New Indian will continue to seek and include replies from both J M Financial, Mohit and other players.

Till now, the Radha Soami Beas dera head, whose visitors in the past, have included key politicians including Punjab’s former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, former CM Capt Amarinder and his close aides, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa apart from several cops, has so far not commented on the controversy. It’s not clear if Dhillon want to risk their reputation by publicly commenting but many in the investigation agencies, that the sect head would be made part of the investigations.

A file photo from May 2023 when Union environment minister Bhupendra Yadav visited Gurinder Dhillon at Radha Soami Beas Satsang in Amritsar

REL officials confirmed the ongoing scrutiny on the Burman family but did not share much headway either, saying that SEBI’s probe is sacrosanct.

 

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