The Supreme Court has asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to start the process of selling some of embattled conglomerate Sahara’s real estate assets in the country to refund millions of investors, lawyers said on Tuesday.
Sahara, a household name in India as the former main sponsor of the national cricket team, has major hotels overseas including the Plaza in New York and the Grosvenor House in London, besides vast real estate assets in India.
Its founder Subrata Roy was arrested in March 2014 after the company failed to comply with a court order to refund money raised from millions of small investors by selling them bonds later ruled to be illegal.
The country’s top court in June last year said the group needed to repay the entire Rs 36,000 crore the court says it owes investors in illegal bonds.
Sahara has submitted to officials a list of 86 properties which it claims are worth Rs 40,000 crore. However, the firm claims that it has not been able to find buyers for the properties. The Supreme Court said that Sebi should not sell the properties for less than 90 per cent of the circle rate – the listed market value. If bids are below 90 per cent of the circle rate, the regulator will have to take the permission of the court.
The proceeds from the property sale will be used for securing bail of Sahara chief Subrata Roy, the top court said. Mr Roy has been in jail for nearly two years and has been unable to arrange Rs 10,000 crore for his bail, as ordered by judges.
Kapil Sibal, representing Sahara, argued, “Nowhere in the world this type of case has happened. There is no jurisdiction in the world that allows a person to be inside jail for two years without any charge.”
Judges retaliated, “Don’t lecture us. Nowhere in the world does a man say he has Rs 1.87 lakh crore in properties and still isn’t paying (his dues).”