Subrata Roy has been held in a Delhi jail for nearly eight months.
India’s markets regulator has accused Sahara of deliberately failing to sell its marquee overseas hotels in New York and London, seen as crucial to it complying with an order to repay investors and secure the release of jailed head Subrata Roy.
Roy, one of India’s best-known business tycoons, has been held in a Delhi jail for nearly eight months over the conglomerate’s failure to refund billions of dollars the group raised in outlawed bonds.
India’s Supreme Court has asked Sahara to pay 100 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) initially to secure bail for Roy, a flamboyant businessman who has often been photographed with senior politicians, professional cricketers and Bollywood movie stars.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) says that the total amount Sahara owes to investors is about 470 billion Indian rupees and has petitioned the country’s top court to order the company to reveal details of offers it received for the sale or mortgage of its hotels, according to court documents seen by Reuters.
Sahara did not reply immediately to requests for comment.
Roy was sent back to a regular jail cell this month after spending two months in a makeshift prison office fitted with computers and phones to enable him to conduct negotiations with prospective buyers for Sahara’s three hotels, including the Plaza in New York and Grosvenor House in London.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, the SEBI said it had been informed by various individuals and entities that Sahara was refusing to entertain bids for the hotels despite several such offers.
LETTERS OF INTENT
The regulator cited emails from purported representatives of companies including New York-based Madison Capital and Texas-based World Class Capital Group (WCCG), including letters of intent to acquire the Sahara hotels.
An official from Madison Capital declined comment and WCCG Chief Executive Nate Paul did not respond immediately to an emailed request for comment.
The SEBI said that the emails from the prospective bidders gave rise to the belief that Sahara may be “wilfully and deliberately” failing to take adequate steps to sell or mortgage the hotels despite Roy being granted office facilities in prison to facilitate the process.
“The above e-mails justifiably give rise to an apprehension that the respondents/detenus/Sahara are wilfully and deliberately not taking adequate steps to sell/dispose of/mortgage the foreign assets for which express permission was sought for from and granted by this Hon’ble Court,” the petition says.
The regulator said that the court has not yet been informed of any offers received and how Sahara dealt with them.
Sahara, which has interests in finance, real estate and media among its varied businesses and is a former main sponsor of the Indian cricket team, has argued that it has repaid most of the investors. The SEBI and the Supreme Court have both disputed Sahara’s claims.
A date for an official hearing of the SEBI petition has yet to be announced.