Capital markets regulator Sebi has barred nine entities from the securities market for at least two years and directed them to refund Rs 8 crore collected from investors, through unregistered investment advisory services, within three months.
Additionally, the regulator has imposed a penalty totalling Rs 18 lakh on them and asked them to pay the amount within 45 days.
The nine entities that have been prohibited are -- Yogesh Kukadia, Rajesh R Kallidumbil, Nithin Raj, Signal2Noise Capital Partners, Investo Investment Advisers, SS Info Sales, SI Digi Sales, CT Web Sales and ML Tele Sales.
Further, three individuals -- Yogesh Kukadia, Rajesh Kallidumbil and Nithin Raj -- have been restrained from associating as directors or key managerial personnel with any listed public company for two years.
In its probe, the regulator found that Yogesh and Rajesh, who were registered as investment advisers, had not conducted the IA (investment advisory) activities in their individual capacities but rather carried out IA work through the six partnership firms that were not registered with Sebi.
The regulator conducted an inspection of the advisory activities of Yogesh and Rajesh for the period April 2018 to September 2019 after receiving certain complaints.
Going by the order, the entities received Rs 810.24 lakh from the clients as fees in respect of their unregistered investment advisory activities. The amount of fees was collected from 4,536 clients for providing investment advice through the six partnership firms, which were not registered firms with Sebi.
The three individuals, who are common partners in all the six partnership firms, have collected the fees from the clients through the six partnership firms, which were not registered and hence not eligible to collect such fees.
"These activities were being carried out by the noticees 1 to 9 without obtaining the necessary certificate of registration as investment advisers and therefore, the noticees have violated ... SEBI Act along with... IA Regulations," Sebi said in its order passed on Tuesday.
Accordingly, Sebi has asked nine entities to "jointly and severally refund the amount / fees /consideration received from any complainant / investor / client, within a period of three months ... in respect of their unregistered investment advisory activities''.
Further, they have been "debarred from accessing the securities market, directly or indirectly and are prohibited from buying, selling or otherwise dealing in the securities market, directly or indirectly in any manner whatsoever, for a period of two years ... or till the expiry of two years from the date of completion of refunds to complainants/investors ... whichever is later".
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