Sebi makes fresh bid to find Sahara investors; sets deadline

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 24 2014, 20:20pm hrs
SebiSebi has now issued a new public notice inviting bondholders of the two Sahara firms to submit their refund applications. (Reuters)
In a last-ditch effort to locate Sahara investors eligible for refunds, regulator Sebi has asked all such persons to submit their claims by next month, while the group claims to have returned the outstanding dues to almost all the concerned bondholders directly.

Those having invested in various bonds issued by two Sahara firms, Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL), have been asked by Sebi to submit their refund applications along with necessary documentary proof by September 30, 2014.

This follows directions from the Supreme Court, which has asked Sebi to facilitate refund to the bondholders of the two companies in connection with a long-running dispute involving raising of funds to the tune of over Rs 24,000 crore from nearly three crore investors across the country.

While Sahara maintained it has already repaid more than 93 per cent of the outstanding dues directly to the concerned bondholders and the remaining amount was just about Rs 2,500 crore, it deposited Rs 5,120 crore to Sebi in December 2012 towards the investor refunds as per Supreme Court orders.

A further amount of Rs 3,117 crore was deposited with Sebi by the group in June this year.

In the meantime, the regulator began a process in May last year of refunding the money to eligible investors from the amount deposited by the group till that time and issued public notices to invite claim applications.

However, the refunds made so far remain minuscule, although the regulator has not so far made public the quantum of such payments.

Taking forward the refund process, Sebi has now issued a new public notice inviting bondholders of the two Sahara firms to submit their refund applications, along with original bond certificates or passbooks, self-attested copies of identity and address proofs, as also bank details for credit of refund amount directly into their accounts.

Sahara group didn't comment on the new refund application process of Sebi.

While seeking applications in a prescribed format, Sebi also said that it would entertain applications for Real Estate, Adobe and Nirmaan Bonds of SIRECL, as also for Multiple, Income and Housing Bonds of SHICL.

"Please note that claims relating to any schemes/bonds other than the ones listed above shall not be entertained and will be returned to the applicant at his/her sole risk and responsibility," the regulator said.

Fixing a deadline for the receipt of applications for refund, Sebi said, "Claims received after September 30, 2014 shall be returned to the applicant at his/her sole risk and responsibility".

Earlier on August 14, Sahara informed the Supreme Court that it has reached an agreement with a foreign party to sell its three luxurious hotels in London and New York and a foreign bank has also agreed to grant bank guarantee for Rs 5,000 crore, after which its chief Subrata Roy was given 15 more working days to complete the process.

Roy, who has been in jail for over five months, was earlier asked to deposit Rs 5,000 crore in cash and further Rs 5,000 crore as bank guarantee to secure an interim bail. Out of this, the group has deposited Rs 3,117 crore so far.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Sultan of Brunei was interested in buying Sahara's three overseas hotel properties. However, these reports were denied by Sultan of Brunei later, while some media reports have also suggested that a potential deal fell apart due to protests by human rights activists for purchase of these properties by the Sultan.

Sahara has been maintaining that Sebi should verify the refunds made by it directly and claims to have submitted to the regulator proof for nearly 75 per cent of refunds. It also says that the remaining 25 per cent refund proof is lying in its Mumbai godown to be given to Sebi.

Sahara also contends that bulk of its investors didn't have bank accounts and other formal financial papers, the details of which have been sought by Sebi.

On the identification on Saharas investors, Sebi has contested in the court that addresses of many of the investors given by Saharas are incomplete as only village name, district and state is given and no house number or street/ lane name is mentioned.

On its part, Sahara has maintained that there most of the investors are from rural India and there are no house numbers or street names in villages.

However, in the new refund application form, Sebi has given a new address format for rural investors, asking only village name, post office, district and state as against additional details like house number and street name for urban addresses.

Sebi also said that income tax would be deducted at source, wherever applicable, unless it receives necessary documents for claim of tax exemption along with the refund application.

In case of change in marital status or if the minor bondholder has attained the age of majority, such investors would need to submit necessary evidence in support of such change in status. Sebi has also asked the bondholders to contact its toll-free telephone helpline for any query.

The application form requires the bondholders to affix a recent photograph and provide details like name, occupation, address, telephone number, PAN (if available), investment details -- account number, number of bonds, amount invested and mode of investment (cash, cheque or draft), as also the investor's bank account details for direct transfer of amount.

The bondholder is also required to give an undertaking, attesting the details in application form with signature or a thumb impression, to return the money along with applicable interest if the declaration subsequently proves to be false.