It’s hardly the $30,000 a night royal suite, but after five months in India’s biggest jail, the owner of the New York Plaza and London’s Grosvenor House is thrilled to be able to use a modest office as he tries to sell the iconic hotels.
Sahara chief Subrata Roy is putting up the two trophy properties and another luxury New York hotel for sale to raise $1.6 billion for the bail bond that will get him out of Tihar jail, sprawling complex that houses about 12,000 inmates.
About a minute’s walk from the headquarters of the prison, Roy now has a 600 square feet (56 square metre) office where he can hold video conferences and receive visitors to try and sell or mortgage the hotels, say prison officials.
In a small adjoining room, there are three beds for Roy and two associates who have also been jailed.
“They are happy, they can now talk to known people all day,” said one Tihar official, who described the setup to a Reuters reporter visiting the prison. “He is very satisfied with the arrangement.”
“Our work will be done now,” Roy told a senior prison officer after moving to the new office-cum-cell, according to the official.
Entry to the office was not possible because Roy was inside and contact with prisoners is prohibited without permission. Three guards stood by an unlocked metal gate before the building, one stood on the roof and one patrolled its grounds.
It’s a race against time for the 66-year-old head of the Sahara conglomerate: Under a deadline set by the Supreme Court, Roy has just a few days left to post the 100 billion rupees in cash and bank guarantees that would secure his release.
The only higher bail ever appears to be a $3 billion bond set by a judge in Texas in 2004 for a wealthy fugitive, although that was reduced to $450,000 on appeal.
Roy was jailed in March after he failed to appear at a contempt hearing in the long-running dispute with the capital markets watchdog over the company’s failure to repay billions of dollars to investors who were sold outlawed bonds.
He is yet to be charged over the dispute and denies any wrongdoing. His Sahara group has vast real estate, media and hotel interests, part-owns a Formula 1 team and used to sponsor the Indian cricket team.
One asset that could raise quick cash is the landmark New York Plaza Hotel