The Sahara Group today virtually accused the Securities & Exchange Board of India of trying to steal its money, using a complaint against a Press Trust of India report as a fig leaf.
The group's lawyer Keshav Mohan issued a statement saying Sahara ''strongly objected'' to a PTI story with the headline 'Sahara investors untraceable, but search empties SEBI coffers', widely published on Friday.
"We strongly object to the PTI story with the headline ' Sahara Investor's Untraceable but Search Empty SEBI Coffers' (sic), which says that the investors of Sahara are not traceable.
''We suspect that this is a highly malicious campaign initiated by SEBI with a very clear intention to siphon off money from the funds that Saharas have deposited purely for the repayment of its investors ... SEBI is maligning Sahara's name by stating that there are no depositors while in the honourable Supreme Court they have stated that in last 15 months they had only digitally listed the documents and no verification has undertaken yet."
The group claimed to have "provided full details of all its depositors, including those whom Saharas have repaid''.
"Rs 5,120 crore that has been given by Sahara is purely for repayment to its investors and not for any kind of miscellaneous expenses to be incurred by any party," Mohan said.
''This is a sinister attempt by SEBI to eat away investors' money. Till now, in Saharas' case, SEBI has not shown any intention to protect the interest of investors, for which it has been constituted."
According to the PTI story, SEBI's quest to locate genuine Sahara investors may be turning futile, but the process has become costly for the regulator and its expenses may rise further next year from about Rs60 crore estimated for the current fiscal.