|Harshad Shantilal Mehta|
29 July 1954|
Paneli Moti, Gujarat, India
|Died||31 December 2001
|Residence||Mumbai, Maharastra, India|
Harshad M Mehta (Gujarati: હર્ષદ મેહતા ) was an Indian stockbroker, well known for his wealth and for having been charged with numerous financial crimes that took place in 1992. Of the 27 criminal charges brought against him, he was only convicted of one, before his death at age 47 in 2001. It was alleged that Mehta engaged in a massive stock manipulation scheme financed by worthless bank receipts, which his firm brokered in "ready forward" transactions between banks. Mehta was convicted by the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court of India for his part in a financial scandal valued at 4999 crore (US$830 million) which took place on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). In reality he actually exposed the loopholes in the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) transaction system and SEBI further introduced new rules to cover those loopholes. He was tried for 9 years, until he died in the late 2001.
Mehta was born on 29 July 1954, at Paneli Moti, Rajkot district, in a Gujarati Jain family. His early childhood was spent in Kandivali, Mumbai, where his father was a small-time businessman. Later, the family moved to Raipur, Chhattisgarh, where Mehta studied in Kalibadi Higher Secondary School.
By profession Mehta was Graduate in commerce. Over a period of ten years, beginning 1980, he served in positions of increasing responsibility at a series of brokerage firms. By 1990, he had risen to a position of prominence in the Indian securities industry. He established his own firm, with the financial assistance of associates, when the BSE auctioned a broker's card. It was at this time that he began trading heavily in the shares of Associated Cement Company (ACC). The price of shares in the cement company eventually rose from Rs.200 to nearly 9000. Mehta justified trading in ACC shares by stating that the stock had been undervalued, and that the market had simply corrected when it revalued the company at a price equivalent to the cost of building a similar enterprise; the so-called "replacement cost theory".
In criminal indictments later brought by the authorities, it was alleged that Mehta and his associates then undertook a much broader scheme, which resulted in manipulating the rise in the Bombay Stock Exchange. The scheme was financed by supposedly collateralised bank receipts, which were in fact uncollateralised. The bank receipts were used in short-term bank-to-bank lending, known as "ready forward" transactions, which Mehta's firm brokered. By the second half of 1991 Mehta had earned the nickname of the ‘Big Bull’, because he was said to have started the bull run in the stock market.
The 1992 security scam
A typical ready forward deal involved two banks brought together by a broker in lieu of a commission. The broker handles neither the cash nor the securities, though that wasn’t the case in the lead-up to the scam. In this settlement process, deliveries of securities and payments were made through the broker. That is, the seller handed over the securities to the broker, who passed them to the buyer, while the buyer gave the cheque to the broker, who then made the payment to the seller. In this settlement process, the buyer and the seller might not even know whom they had traded with, either being known only to the broker. This the brokers could manage primarily because by now they had become market makers and had started trading on their account. To keep up a semblance of legality, they pretended to be undertaking the transactions on behalf of a bank.
Another instrument used was the Bank receipt (BR). In a ready forward deal, securities were not moved back and forth in actuality. Instead, the borrower, i.e., the seller of securities, gave the buyer of the securities a BR. As the authors write, a BR “confirms the sale of securities. It acts as a receipt for the money received by the selling bank. Hence the name – bank receipt. It promises to deliver the securities to the buyer. It also states that in the mean time, the seller holds the securities in trust of the buyer.”
Having figured out his scheme, Mehta needed banks which issued fake BRs (Not backed by any government securities). “Two small and little known banks – the Bank of Karad (BOK) and the Metropolitan Co-operative Bank (MCB) – came in handy for this purpose. These banks were willing to issue BRs as and when required, for a fee,” the authors point out. Once these fake BRs were issued, they were passed on to other banks and the banks in turn gave money to Mehta, assuming that they were lending against government securities when this was not really the case. This money was used to drive up the prices of stocks in the stock market. When time came to return the money, the shares were sold for a profit and the BR was retired. The money due to the bank was returned.
This went on as long as the stock prices kept going up, and no one had a clue about Mehta's operations. Once the scam was exposed, though, a lot of banks were left holding BRs which did not have any value – the banking system had been swindled of a whopping 40 billion (US$670 million). When the scam was revealed, the Chairman of the Vijaya Bank committed suicide by jumping from the office roof. He knew that he would be accused if people came to know about his involvement in issuing checks to Mehta. M J Pherwani of UTI was also linked to Mehta.
Exposure, trial and conviction
Exploiting several loopholes in the banking system, Mehta and his associates siphoned off funds from inter-bank transactions and bought shares heavily at a premium across many segments, triggering a rise in the Sensex. When the scheme was exposed, banks started demanding their money back, causing the collapse. He was later charged with 72 criminal offences, and more than 600 civil action suits were filed against him.
He was arrested and banished from the stock market with investigators holding him responsible for causing a loss to various entities. Mehta and his brothers were arrested by the CBI on 9 November 1992 for allegedly misappropriating more than 2.8 million shares (2.8 million) of about 90 companies, including ACC and Hindalco, through forged share transfer forms. The total value of the shares was placed at 2.5 billion (US$42 million).
Mehta made a brief comeback as a stock market guru, giving tips on his own website as well as a weekly newspaper column. However, in September 1999, Bombay High Court convicted and sentenced him to five years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 25000 (US$420). On 14 January 2003, Supreme Court of India confirmed High Court's judgement. It was a 2:1 majority judgement. While Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Arijit Pasayat upheld his conviction, Justice M.B. Shah voted to acquit him.
Allegations of payment of bribe to India's prime minister
Mehta again raised a furore in 1995 when he made a public announcement that he had paid 10 million (US$170,000) to the then Congress president and prime minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, as donation to the party, for getting him off the scandal case.
Mehta was under Criminal custody in the Thane prison. Mehta complained of chest pain late at night and was admitted to the Thane civil Hospital. He died following a brief heart ailment, at the age of 47, on 31 of December 2001. He is survived by his wife and one son. He died with many litigations still pending against him. He had altogether 28 cases registered against him. The trial of all except one, are still continuing in various courts in the country. Market watchdog, Securities and Exchange Board of India, had banned him for life from stock market-related activities.
In popular culture
- In the 1995 movie "Gambler" starring Govinda, Harshad Mehta is referred in the parody song "Stop That" at [ 02:13 ]
- The character Natwar Shah in movie Aankhein (released:1993), placed under scanner for a Rs.5000 crore scandal, was inspired by Harshad Mehta.
- The Mehta scandal was portrayed in the Hindi movie, Gafla. It was premiered in Times BFI 50th London Film Festival on 18 Oct 2006.
- Mehta scandal life is covered by Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu in their book The Scam: From Harshad Mehta To Ketan Parekh.
- Harshad Mehta's trial has been referred to in 2001 Bollywood movie Nayak.
- "SC upholds Harshad Mehta's conviction". Times of India. 14 January 2003. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
- "Admires of Harshad Mehta". The Hindu Business Line.
- "Harshad Mehta's scam unfold". Retrieved Rediff.com.
- "Harshad Mehta & Ketan Parekh Scam". Flame. 1992-04-23. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "Harshad Mehta's Scam". Flame.org. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- "Harshad Mehta: From Pied Piper of the markets to India's best-known scamster". Sucheta Dalal. 2001-12-31. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "Chairman of Bank commit suicide". BullRider.in. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- "Harshad Mehta sentenced to five years' RI". Rediff.com. 28 September 1999. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
- "Mehta's is alleged to bribed PM Rao". Outlook India. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- "Harshad Mehta Cremated". Economic Times.
- "Aankhen may become a box-office classic". indiatoday.intoday.in. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
- "Movie based on Harshad Mehta released". NowRunning.com. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- ISBN 8188154024, ISBN 9788188154029