Flashy tycoon KD Singh wants to fly, SEBI says no
New Delhi: Around the time West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee walked around in Delhi in her trademark blue bordered saree and rubber slippers seeking support to oust PM Narendra Modi, her TMC Rajya Sabha member KD Singh faced heat in Calcutta High Court, the charges are very serious.
Singh, considered by many in Kolkata as TMC’s round-the-clock tap for funds, is contemplating leaving India for good, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has said in a petition at Calcutta High Court on Tuesday.
The market regulator said it has evidence to show that flashy Chandigarh-based industrialist and promoter of Alchemist group was all set to settle in Greece and had even bought a palatial building in the island city of Mykonos. If that happens, Singh will easily escape the probe against his companies for fleecing people in Ponzi schemes. Singh and top officials of the Alchemist Group are wanted in numerous cases of financial scandals in Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa.
In a report submitted to the Calcutta High Court, the market regulator has submitted evidence showing how Singh was transferring huge chunks of cash through the illegal, hawala route for his new operations in Greece. SEBI lawyer Prasanta Dutta told BTVI that the market regulator has evidence of a number of pubs and restaurants acquired by Singh across Greece for his new business. “This is a serious case and we have demanded in-camera hearing of the case. We have already submitted proof in the court as to how Singh transferred Rs 700 crore abroad using a number of Escrow accounts.”
Dutta said Singh was using a Mumbai company as a front for his plans. Dutta did not name the company. The market regulator has asked for a High-Powered probe against Singh, who - claimed SEBI - was hoping to seek residentship of European Union (EU).
Investigations against Singh and his directors in Alchemist Group revealed that the company raised almost Rs 2,000 crore and did not repay its investors, mostly lowly daily wage workers and farmers.
West Bengal, where he first made a foray nearly a decade and a half ago, was a key market for him. Alchemist had hired veteran Bengali star Mithun Chakraborty as its brand ambassador to promote its products. During the Left rule in Bengal, the then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya inaugurated a poultry unit in Durgapur that remained un-operational. Singh started his Ponzi scheme but the Left Front kept him at arm's length on the advice of CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet. In 2009, Singh surrendered an unaccounted income of Rs 22 crore in 2009 after Income-Tax officials raided his operations. Unfazed, he called the raid “a routine exercise”.
In the petition, SEBI said Singh had floated as many as ten companies abroad and was transferring cash. “This very cash must be brought back and the investors paid,” said Dutta.
This is not the first time that Singh has faced music from the regulators and various ministries. Way back in 2011, the Home Ministry probed Singh for business operations, then mostly confined in northern India where he ran a chain of hospital, pharmacy, poultry food under the Republic of Chicken brand. Eventually, he acquired mines in Jharkhand and tea gardens in north Bengal.
The home ministry investigation, conducted by the Intelligence Wing of the ministry on details from the BSE and NSE, revolved around investments made by Alchemist in companies such as Usher Agro, Sel Manufacturing, Dhanus Tech, Pyramid Saimira and Resurgere Mines and artificially rigging the share prices of these companies to make quick profits.
Around the same time, two Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) which acquired a stake in Alchemist Realty Limited, one of the group's 16 companies were also probed. The FIIs (Mavi Investment Fund and Somerset Emerging Opportunities Fund) were rumoured to have close links with Nirmal Kotecha, banned by SEBI for manipulating share prices of Pyramid Saimira.
Singh, also president of the Indian Hockey Federation, had been in news for a lot of wrong reasons. He was once allegedly involved in a benami deal in Himachal Pradesh where he allegedly used a front-man to buy the Himalayan International School in Shimla and wanted to demolish it and start an uber luxury resort in its place. But parents of students thwarted his move through a court order. Singh was questioned at Delhi airport in March 2011, for carrying Rs 57 lakh in cash in his private aircraft to Guwahati.
Singh loves to dress in white, travels in a Rolls Royce Phantom car and mostly spends time in Delhi. He also owns Tehelka, an investigative portal turned journal started by editor Tarun Tejpal. Recently, the CBI and ED picked up the magazine’s self-styled chief editor, Upendra Rai, on charges of blackmailing and money laundering but Singh did not comment on it.
Singh got into business way back in 1988 under the banner of Turbo Industries. His first factory in Chandigarh produced wire mesh and link fencing. The name was changed to Alchemist in 2004.
Singh, who gained an entry into the Rajya Sabha through the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), was named in a sting camera operation on CNN-IBN as the person who won his seat by distributing cash liberally to a host of JMM leaders in 2010. When he decided to switch over to TMC, angry JMM workers forced him to beat a hasty retreat from Ranchi.
But this time, the charges are very serious and Singh would need more than his luck to emerge out of this one.