The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) is likely to auction 25 MF Husain paintings in its possession soon. The sheriff of Mumbai, who was empowered by the Bombay High Court to supervise the auction process, is set to kick it off on April 19. These paintings are valued by trade sources at around `100 crore.
Guru Swarup Srivastava of Mumbai-based Swarup Group of Industries, from whom the paintings were seized by Nafed, had contested the auction. For the last many years, the agri cooperative, which has been facing mounting debts because of its failed tie-up business with a clutch of private parties, including Swarup Group, has been trying to monetise the artworks by the maestro.
A Nafed official said that the auction proceeds would help the cooperative in revamping its operations. Besides, the sheriff is expected to give a nod for selling the space in a Mumbai mall owned by Sawarup Group which was also attached by Nafed. The market rate of mall space is estimated at around `150 crore. The sheriff of Mumbai is empowered to carry out orders of the high court relating to attachment of the properties and order auctions.
More than a decade ago, Nafed, in collaboration with banks, had provided `235 crore to the Swarup Group, without any collaterals, for exporting iron-ore between April and August 2004. Srivastava had subsequently purchased the Husain paintings, whose ownership was being contested in the court till now.
Under the tie-up business, Nafed stood guarantor to unsecured loans of `3,900 crore availed by 29 private companies for undertaking exports in agricultural and non-agricultural items during 2003-2006. As several of these debtors including the Swarup Group defaulted, the onus of interest payment fell on Nafed, which had a crippling impact on on the operations of the agricultural cooperatives business.
Though the federation has recovered `2,900 crore from defaulting partners, the delays have cost it dear and the debt-servicing costs mounted to `1,700 crore.