Sebi files contempt petition against Sahara group in SC over OFCD row

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 3 2012, 08:58am hrs
Market regulator Sebi on Friday filed a contempt petition against the Sahara group and its managing director Subrata Roy for non-compliance of the Supreme Courts directions, asking them to refund Rs 24,000 crore raised from investors through optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs).

Urging the apex court to initiate contempt and punish the Sahara firms, Subrata Roy Sahara and directors Ashok Roy Choudhary, Ravi Shankar Dubey, Vandana Bhargava Sebi, in its new contempt plea, accused the companies of wilful and deliberate violation and non-compliance of the August 31 order that asked the group to furnish documents within 10 days to Sebi on the OFCDs.

They (Sahra group) were duty bound to strictly comply with the directions of the apex court both in letter and spirit, Sebi said.

The apex court on August 31 had asked two Sahara group entities Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (now known as Sahara Commodity Services Corporation) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation to refund around R24,000 crore collected from investors under the scheme.

To expedite the whole process of refund, the apex court had also asked the Sahara firms to furnish all documents, particularly the application forms submitted by the subscribers, the approval and allotment of bonds, to SEBI within 10 days.

However, Sebi stated that while it had initiated all the steps to comply with the August 31 directions, the Sahara group firms have not only failed to comply with the directions but have also indicated their clear intention not to do so.

The market regulator said despite the directions giving clear timelines, the Sahara firms, in utter disregard, disrespect and disobedience of the directions of the court deliberately and wilfully did not comply with any of the directions, thus committed contempt of the court by directly settlling their liabilities with their investors.

The petition stated that the Sahara group firms had in a letter dated September 3 admitted that they had settled their liabilities directly with certain investors or group of investors, instead of refunding all the monies to Sebi.

Sebi further said that it had received various complaints from investors that they were being forced by Saharas /their agents / officials to switch-over their investments to other schemes in Sahara Group firms like Sahara Q Shop Unique Product Range Sahara Credit Cooperative Society.

Some investors have also complained that their investments have been switched over to the said schemes of Sahara group companies without their consent. It was also alleged that the switch over and conversions are being pre-dated by Sahara, the contempt petition stated.

On receipt of these complaints, Sebi had verified the claims and found that the complainants existed and they confirmed their complaints. In one such in-person verification, the complainant has revealed that he had recently received R5 lakh in cash towards refund of his investment in OFCDs.

This was in clear violations of the judgment that directed the group not to use the subscription amount, Sebi said, adding that the companies had failed to submit any document in their custody viz application forms, the approval and allotment of bonds and other documents to enable Sebi to ascertain the genuineness of the subscribers and the amount so deposited by them.

To protect the interest of the investors, Sebi had come out with a public notice, advising bond holders of these two companies not to get forced and misguided regarding their investments.