All four societies were under common management of the Sahara group and had collectively garnered Rs 86,673 crore, including more than Rs 47,000 crore collected by Sahara Credit Cooperative Society Ltd from nearly 4 crore depositors.
Alleging irregularities, the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies has sought a probe by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) into investments made by four cooperatives associated with the Sahara group from over Rs 86,600 crore collected by them, but the credit societies refuted the charges and said all their investments have been made as per the law.
The societies also said they have contested the allegations at the "appropriate forum".
In a letter written to the corporate affairs ministry, the Registrar said it had received more than 15,000 complaints from depositors and members of the four credit cooperative societies -- Sahara Credit Cooperative Society Ltd, Saharayan Universal Multipurpose Society Ltd, Humara India Credit Cooperative Society Ltd and Stars Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd.
The Registrar said it summoned the management of the four societies and found after its further probe that all the four societies were under common management of the Sahara group and had collectively garnered Rs 86,673 crore, including more than Rs 47,000 crore collected by Sahara Credit Cooperative Society Ltd from nearly 4 crore depositors.
It further said that the information furnished by the management of the four societies showed that a total amount of Rs 62,643 crore was invested in Aamby Valley Limited by the four societies from their total deposit.
When asked for their comments, a spokesperson for the cooperative societies said, "We invest our money as per the provisions of our bye-laws which were approved by the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies" and in consonance with the relevant provisions of the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act.
The spokesperson further said, "... rightfully societies have invested in Aamby Valley Ltd".
"We have always submitted our audited financial statements which are in the public domain. The Central Registrar, in 2018 has also conducted a special audit and found no violation of bye-laws/Act. Also please note that as per the law, probing cooperative society is out of the preview of any outside agency.
"Hence we refute the allegations and have contested the allegations at the appropriate forum. Any query by the registrar will be addressed with the regulator," the spokesperson said.
Official sources said the SFIO is looking into affairs of some Sahara entities and it will take into account additional references that have been forwarded by the corporate affairs ministry to the probe agency. However, any specific detail could not be ascertained.
The Registrar, in its letter, alleged that the four societies also made "significant investments" in various Sahara group companies, while "fictitious profits" were shown in the accounts of the societies for sale and purchase of shares of Ambey Valley Limited amongst the group companies.
It further said that an amount of Rs 2,253 crore was taken out from the funds of one of the four societies and deposited with the Securities and Exchange Board of India on account of the group's long-running dispute with the capital market regulator and was shown as an advance to Subrata Roy.
The Registrar said the government needs to order an SFIO investigation to ascertain the valuation of assets and shares of the companies in which funds from the cooperatives have been invested, so as to safeguard the "hard-earned money and deposits made by crores of Indian citizens" in the four cooperative societies.
Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters