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SEBI vs Urja Global: The strange case of a non-existent element and a market scam

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SEBI vs Urja Global: The strange case of a non-existent element and a market scam

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Most of us may be familiar with the fictitious kryptonite, described as ‘an alien mineral that has the property of depriving Superman of his powers.’ And then came ‘Zacobite,’ a non-existent chemical element that an Indian company, Urja Global, conjured out of thin air. But of course there was no fooling market regulator SEBI.

While the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has to daily deal with companies and their creative attempts to manipulate markets, rarely does it come across a scientific scam — involving an unheard-of chemical element called ‘Zacobite.’ The top brass of Urja Global — now barred by SEBI from the markets — thought nothing of thinking up the non-existent Zacobite, which it was purportedly going to supply to Nippon Shinyaku Co Ltd.

Simply put, Zacobite does not exist. Not on the Periodic Table, not even on a Google search. That’s right. The company decided to sell a product that does not exist.
The SEBI has documented this fraud in an order uploaded on its website — On July 13, 2019, Urja Global informed the BSE about entering into an agreement with a Japanese company, Nippon Shinyaku Co Ltd, under it would procure and supply a product called Zacobite for five years. The cost of procurement was stated as $65 million, with Urja pocketing a 10 percent commission.
So far, so good.
However, Zacobite did not find a mention on either Urja Global or Nippon Shinyaku’s website, nor was it mentioned in Urja Global’s annual reports for the previous three years.
What Zacobite did, however, was give Urja Global’s stock super powers — the company’s share price jumped from Rs 2.17 to Rs 3.05 within three days of the announcement, while the volume of shares took a giant leap from 1.6 lakh on July 12, to 93.4 lakh by the end of trading on July 16, 2019.
While SEBI could not establish any gains the company or its executives might have made from the stock movement, it barred the Urja Global — and four of its executives — from the markets for two years.
The Japanese company has denied signing any contract with Urja Global for the supply of Zacobite.
Watch the accompanying video for more.
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