SEBI quizzes Sahara chief Subrata Roy, seeks asset details

Mumbai, April 10: Market regulator SEBI questioned Sahara group chief Subrata Roy and three other top executives on Wednesday, about their assets and investments in connection with the high profile case involving refund of an estimated Rs 24,000 crore to over three crore investors.

In their personal appearance that lasted for about one hour, Roy and three other directors of Sahara companies were asked about their personal assets as also those of the companies so that SEBI can proceed with the sale of these assets to realise the funds for refund to investors.

SEBI had summoned Roy, Ashok Roy Choudhary, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Vandana Bhargava for a personal appearance before its whole time member Prashant Saran through an order issued on 26th March.

After his appearance, Roy told waiting reporters that he was asked about his personal assets which he thought was a point for concern for SEBI.

"My personal assets appears to have troubled Sebi," he said, while adding that most of the investors had been paid back and the remaining money to be refunded was with the market regulator.

Roy said he was asked by the regulator whether he had any assets beyond those declared by him. "I was asked about my personal assets and I told them that I have declared all my assets."

He said that Sahara group was concerned about delay in refund by SEBI and accused the regulator of not having taken any steps for months together to return the money to those investors who have not been refunded as yet.

The regulator was not taking any steps for returning investors' money from Rs 5,120 crore submitted by the group to SEBI. The group claims that it has already returned a bulk of the total Rs 24,000 crore refund to investors directly and the total outstanding liability was less than Rs 5,120 crore given to SEBI towards investor refund.

Roy and other executives were asked to produce original title deeds of all assets and investments of the two firms, Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL).

A Supreme Court court order dated 31st August, 2012, had SEBI asked to facilitate the refund of over Rs 24,000 crore to more than three crore bond holders of SIRECL and SHICL within three months after verifying genuineness of investors.

Later on 5th December, 2012, the court gave additional time to Sahara group and asked it to make an immediate payment of Rs 5,120 crore, followed by Rs 10,000 crore by the first week of January and the remainder by the first week of February.

After the apex court said that the market regulator was free to freeze accounts and attach properties if Sahara group firms were not depositing the money with it for refund to investors, Sebi on 13th February, 2013 ordered freezing of accounts and attachment of assets.

As per SEBI, the SIRECL and SHCIL had raised Rs 6,380 crore and Rs 19,400 crore respectively from bond holders and "various illegalities" were committed in raising these funds.

Earlier, they were asked by the regulator to provide details of their assets and investments by 8th April. SEBI had said that it would ex-parte settle the terms of proclamation of sale of their and the companies' assets in case the four persons failed to appear before it.

Incidentally, the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) is scheduled to hear later this week, on 13th April, appeals filed by Subrata Roy and others against a previous SEBI order for attachment of their bank accounts, assets and investments.

These properties include those related to the group's Aambey Valley resort town near Pune, other real estate assets in Delhi, Mumbai and at other places across the country, shares, mutual funds and various other investments.

Besides, they have been asked to furnish details of their bank accounts (in India and abroad), and the complete books of accounts along with income tax returns and wealth tax returns filed by the two companies from fiscal 2007-08 onwards.

Later this month, the SC would also hear a plea by SEBI, seeking orders for Roy's arrest and barring him from leaving the country.

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