The CBI, in a status report on the NSE co-location scam, told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that it has expanded the scope of its investigation beyond the FIR filed in May last year to unearth the "larger conspiracy", including how an accused, in the garb of research, gained access to NSE data.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that in case any fact emerges that the "NSE/Sebi/Department/Ministry or any private person/public servant irrespective of the office he was holding during the relevant period was found to be part of the conspiracy", that particular individual or entity will be investigated in accordance with the law.
Therefore, the CBI has come on record that the scope of the investigation can possibly go beyond the FIR filed on May 28, 2018.
The agency said that it has concluded in the garb of research, NSE data was misused.
"The investigation of the case is vast, broad and deep to look into the criminality by public/private players and misuse of data of NSE in the name of the research purpose," said the CBI report, filed in response to the court direction seeking a status report by May 22.
The CBI is probing the collusion between officials of market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), and a stock-broking firm, including its owners, who, along with NSE officials, indulged in fraud, criminal conspiracy and destruction of electronic evidence.
The FIR was filed against Sanjay Gupta, Aman Kokrady, Ajay Narottam Shah, OPG Securities, unknown officials of the Sebi and the NSE and others.
The investigation agency also informed the court that it will examine "any fraudulent act or any commission/omission of act resulted in wrongful gain", and specifically look into "what were the connections of Ajay Shah with private persons and NSE officials".
Elaborating on the scope of the investigation since the registration of the FIR, the CBI told the court that it was trying to ascertain the channel used by Mr Shah to access NSE trade data, and then match it with "the guidelines of Sebi with regard to providing data to any private party". The agency has pinned its investigation on the loophole utilised by Mr Shah to collect NSE data "in the capacity of individual or institution".
In 2015, a whistle-blower in Sebi alleged rigging of high-frequency trading systems at the NSE between 2010 and 2014 in several letters to the market watchdog. The CBI registered an FIR in May 2018, after a nearly three-year delay.
A PIL filed by petitioner Shantanu Guha Ray, represented by senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, contended that abusing its market position, the NSE helped aberrant brokers and politicians make illegal gains, risking the institutional set-up of exchanges.
The petition also alleged that the Sebi failed to take stringent action against such brokers from the NSE, and that its own officers were involved.
The scam is basically about the alleged market manipulation at the NSE for the benefit of a select few. It has been alleged that only a few select players got access to the market price information before anybody else could and this helped brokers make wrongful gains, which allegedly ran into thousands of crores of rupees.
The CBI is probing the alleged collusion of insiders which worked hand-in-glove with the brokers to rig the NSE's algorithmic trading platform and then using the co-location servers to ensure large profits to a set of brokers, especially OPG Securities.