Stock Market

Sharepro fraud widens; Britannia latest to be hit by share theft

Chillicious Team

Britannia Industries has become the latest casualty of fraudulent practices at its share registrar, Sharepro Services. The fast moving consumer goods major is the third company to be hit after Asian Paints and Aptech .

On Friday, Britannia informed the stock exchanges that it was terminating its agreement with Sharepro following “certain irregularities at Sharepro with respect to share related operations and dividend encashment activities.” the company has also filed a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW).

And while the company did not give any further details, has learnt from a source that the value of shares and dividends illegally transferred from the accounts of bonafide shareholders to those of some Sharepro employees is around Rs 18-20 crore. The figure could not be independently confirmed with Britannia. The source said that Britannia had got consultancy firm EY to do a forensic audit of its shareholder list.

In response to an e-mail questionnaire, EY said: “As per our company policy, we cannot comment on specific companies.”

Britannia did not respond to the e-mail on the issue sent to the agency handling its corporate communications.

Sharepro is a SEBI registered Category I registrar to public issues and share transfer agent, and has been in the share registry business for over two decades.

The Sharepro website claims Larsen & Toubro Finance Holdings , Bajaj Hindusthan , Hexaware, Ultratech Cement , Dena Bank , Bank of India , Zee, Godfrey Phillips, Mahindra Lifespaces, Abbot India, Clariant, Novartis, BASF, Balmer & Lawrie and Bombay Dyeing among its main clients.

Strangely, there has been no action from the Securities and Exchange Board of India so far.

Last week, Aptech had filed a criminal complaint against Sharepro alleging fraudulent transfer of shares.

A week before that, Asian Paints had terminated its agreement with Sharepro , and sought the arrest of Sharepro’s Managing Director GR Rao and Operations Head Indira Karkera for illegal transfer of the dividend and shares of some shareholders.

In the First Information Report filed by Asian Paints at the Saki Naka police station, Asian Paints alleged that the shares of some shareholders were transferred to the accounts of Sharepro employees by forging documents and opening fake demat accounts, bank accounts and trading accounts. The value of the shares and dividends were just under Rs 2 crore.

Sources said SEBI had asked Asian Paints to look into the matter after an anonymous letter tipping the regulator about the irregularities at Sharepro.