France’s biggest energy company TotalEnergies, previously named Total, announced yesterday that it will postpone an agreed deal with Indian conglomerate Adani Group to invest in its green hydrogen project. The move follows accusations from investment research firm Hindenburg Research of a decades-long stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme.

The research report, published on 24 January, outlines findings from a two-year-long investigation Adani Group’s financial activities. Hindenburg says that its report presents evidence that “Adani Group has engaged in a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades.”

It adds that “the Adani Group has previously been the focus of four major government fraud investigations which have alleged money laundering, theft of taxpayer funds and corruption, totalling an estimated $17 billion.”

Climate Energy and Finance founder and director Tim Buckley said in an interview that Adani Group faces accusations “of the biggest fraud in world history”. The allegations are yet to be proven, but there is “a lot of evidence to support [them]”, he says.

An Adani Group statement on 26 January said that that “the maliciously mischievous, unresearched report published by Hindenburg Research on 24 January 2023 has adversely affected the Adani Group, our shareholders and investors.”

“Clearly, the report and its unsubstantiated contents were designed to have deleterious effect on the share values of Adani Group companies”, it continued, adding that “the volatility in Indian stock markets created by the report… has led to unwanted anguish for Indian citizens.”

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It said that the company is preparing for “punitive action against Hindenburg Research.”

The French company is one of Adani Group’s largest foreign investors with stakes in four of its subsidiary energy companies; Adani Total Private Limited, Adani Total Gas Limited, Adani Green Energy Limited, and AGEL23.

In a statement last week, a TotalEnergies spokesperson said that its “investments in Adani’s entities were undertaken in full compliance with applicable – namely Indian – laws, and with TotalEnergies’ own internal governance processes.”

It added that “the due diligence, which were carried out to TotalEnergies’ satisfaction, were consistent with best practices, and all relevant material in the public domain was reviewed, including the detailed disclosures to regulators required under applicable laws.”

TotalEnergies was to take a 25% stake in the hydrogen project, in which Adani Group plans to invest $50bn over 10 years into a green hydrogen ecosystem that includes an initial production capacity of one million tons before 2030.

TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne said: “Obviously, the hydrogen project will be put on hold until we have clarity,” regarding the allegations. He continued: “This project was announced but nothing has been signed… and for now it won’t be signed. It makes no sense to add more [projects] until there is clarity.”

A company statement said that it “welcomes the announcement by Adani to mandate one of the “big six” accounting firms to carry out a general audit.”