Stock - Gautam Adani
An investigation began in 2015 into an Adani Singapore entity and the alleged over-invoicing of imported coal by billionaire Gautam Adani's companies. Image Credit: Bloomberg

India's government is seeking to restart a probe into Adani Group coal imports from Indonesia, a potential setback for the sprawling conglomerate that's still recovering from a brutal shortseller report earlier this year.

The nation's Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, or DRI, which is part of the finance ministry, has again reiterated its request to India's Supreme Court to revive an investigation that began in 2015 into an Adani Singapore entity and the alleged over-invoicing of imported coal by billionaire Gautam Adani's companies, according to an October 9 court filing seen by Bloomberg News.

The probe hit a roadblock several years ago after there were legal objections pertaining to obtaining documents from the Singapore unit.

Adani Group imports Indonesian coal into India via Singapore. Adani Global Pte, the Singapore unit, produced documents at Indian ports that showed a jump in some coal shipments' value and calorific grade versus what was recorded at the time of loading it in Indonesia, according to last month's counter affidavit. Reuters reported on the October 9 filing earlier Friday.

Adani Group said in a statement on Friday that during the DRI's inquiry into the alleged over-valuation of Indonesian coal imported by Adani Enterprises Ltd. and Adani Power Ltd., among other major private and state-run power generators, "both companies furnished details and documents as sought for by the DRI more than four years back."

"Thereafter, the DRI asked for no further details or documents," it said, adding that until now, "no deficiency or objection has been communicated by the DRI."

Any Supreme Court-sanctioned investigation would swing the spotlight back on corporate governance at the ports-to-power conglomerate just as the storm around Hindenburg Research's scathing January report had begun to calm.

The shortseller accused the group of stock-price manipulation and accounting fraud "- charges that Adani Group has repeatedly denied.

Legal woes for Adani Group

The conglomerate is India's largest coal importer and its flagship, Adani Enterprises, gets about half its revenue from trading the fossil fuel. Adani Group is meantime separately awaiting the outcome of a court-mandated probe by India's markets regulator into discrepancies alleged by Hindenburg.

While this particular matter has dragged on for years and a verdict is likely months away considering the next hearing is set down for February, the development also underscores the continuing regulatory questions around Adani Group, which has rapidly diversified beyond its coal trading and port origins into airports, data centers, cement and media.

The DRI won a magistrate court's approval in 2016 whereby that court agreed to send letters of request to the Singapore courts to help the DRI investigate the matter in a foreign jurisdiction. That order was overturned by the Bombay High Court in 2018, stalling the probe.

The DRI then in 2019 approached the Supreme Court in an appeal.

Its latest attempt once again asks India's top court to set aside the Bombay High Court order, asserting that processes were in compliance with the law and had due permissions from the concerned government ministries.

The Financial Times reported last month that Adani Group was selling fuel at above-market values as late as 2021.