The family dynamic of billionaire Gautam Adani may well come into the spotlight after US-based short seller Hindenburg’s numerous, startling allegations of wrongdoing by the Adani Group. Specifically, the role of Gautam Adani’s older brother, Vinod, has been called into question by Hindenburg, which has made several allegations of wrongdoing against the elder sibling. Some of these are: Billions of dollars of investment by entities associated with Vinod Adani, with no obvious operations and no employees etc., into publicly listed Adani companies in India; stock manipulation; and, related party transactions and money laundering.
On its part, the Gautam Adani Group has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and rubbished all allegations made by Hindenburg. Specifically on Vinod’s role, it has said that the elder Adani has no role in the day-to-day affairs of the group and holds no managerial position in any of the listed entities of the group. The group has also wondered why it is being asked for comments on business dealings and transactions of Vinod Adani.
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Point and counter point
After the Adani Group rubbished all allegations in a verbose report late on Sunday, Hindenburg suggested that the brothers (Gautam and Vinod) would perhaps like to talk more during family dinners! “…we are expected to believe that Gautam Adani has no idea why his brother Vinod lent massive sums of money to Adani entities and no idea where the money originated from. If any of that were true, Gautam could easily clear up the mystery by calling his brother or asking him at the next family dinner why he has been directing billions of dollars to Adani-controlled entities through a network of opaque offshore shell entities. He could also call the head of his own Family Investment Office and ask the same,” Hindenburg has said.
Vinod Adani is based in Dubai and in September 2022, the IIFL Wealth Hurun India Rich List said he had become the richest NRI with Rs 1.69 lakh crore in wealth. His name had cropped up earlier in investigations into offshore entities by some international agencies but no wrongdoing has been proved till now.
Charges by Hindenburg
Here are some of the allegations Hindenburg has made against Vinod Adani:
- “Many of the Vinod Adani-associated entities have no obvious signs of operations, including no reported employees, no independent addresses or phone numbers and no meaningful online presence. Despite this, they have collectively moved billions of dollars into Indian Adani publicly listed and private entities, often without required disclosure of the related party nature of the deals.”
- “We have also uncovered rudimentary efforts seemingly designed to mask the nature of some of the shell entities.”
- “The Vinod-Adani shells seem to serve several functions, including (1) stock parking / stock manipulation (2) and laundering money through Adani’s private companies onto the listed companies’ balance sheets in order to maintain the appearance of financial health and solvency.”
- “A Cyprus-based entity called New Leaina Investments until June-September 2021 owned over US $420 million in Adani Green Energy shares, comprising 95% of its portfolio. Parliamentary records show it was (and may still be) a shareholder of other Adani listed entities.”
- “New Leaina is operated by incorporation services firm Amicorp, which has worked extensively to aid Adani in developing its offshore entity network. Amicorp formed at least 7 Adani promoter entities, at least 17 offshore shells and entities associated with Vinod Adani, and at least 3 Mauritius-based offshore shareholders of Adani stock.”
- “Another Vinod Adani-controlled Mauritius entity called Emerging Market Investment DMCC lists no employees on LinkedIn, has no substantive online presence, has announced no clients or deals, and is based out of an apartment in the UAE. It lent US $1 billion to an Adani Power subsidiary.”
- “This offshore shell network also seems to be used for earnings manipulation. For example, we detail a series of transactions where assets were transferred from a subsidiary of listed Adani Enterprises to a private Singaporean entity controlled by Vinod Adani, without disclosure of the related party nature of these deals. Once on the books of the private entity, the assets were almost immediately impaired, likely helping the public entity avoid a material write-down and negative impact to net income.”
In its detailed response to the allegations, the Adani Group has said, “Vinod Adani does not hold any managerial position in any Adani listed entities or their subsidiaries and has no role in their day-to-day affairs. As such, these questions have no relevance to the entities in the Adani portfolio and we are not in a position to comment on your allegations on the business dealings and transactions of Mr Vinod Adani. We reiterate that any transactions by the Adani portfolio companies with any related party have been duly identified and disclosed as related party transactions in compliance with Indian laws and standard and have been carried out on arm’s length terms.”
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The younger brother
Not just Vinod, the Hindenburg allegations also encompass Gautam Adani’s younger brother Rajesh. The short seller first mentions Rajesh in the context of an investigation by the DIrectorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) way back in 2004-05, where there were allegations of him having played “a central role in a diamond trading import/export scheme. The alleged scheme involved the use of offshore shell entities to generate artificial turnover,” Hindenburg said.
The Adani Group has said in its response that the DRI investigation was closed in its favour by the Appellate Tribunal in August 2015 and this was upheld by the Supreme Court subsequently.
Also read: Why investors needn’t panic over Adani group firms’ share fall
But unlike its response on allegations pertaining to Vinod Adani, where the group has highlighted the fact that the elder Adani holds no managerial position in any group company, Rajesh Adani is a very active member of the group. A group website says, “Mr Rajesh Adani has been a vital part of the Adani Group since its inception. With strong leadership and interpersonal skills, he heads the Group’s operations and has been responsible for developing its business relationships. His proactive and personalised approach toward the business and his competitive spirit have contributed greatly to the growth of the Group and its diverse businesses. He currently spearheads the Group’s energy vertical.”