The Supreme Court today asked Sebi to suggest an asset management agency, which could arrange better deals for Sahara properties that are for sale to get the group boss Subrata Roy released from Delhi’s Tihar jail. He was imprisoned since March 24 under court orders and his release requires Rs 5,000 crore in bail.
Sahara submitted before a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur that it could not sell the two hotels in London and another in New York as Bank of China, which has charge on them, has put hurdles. Therefore, Sahara has found another entity which will take over the entire loan and offer a ‘junior loan’. Post-dated cheques are ready and payments will be made to an escrow account, which will be immediately transferred to Sebi.
Sahara counsel S Ganesh said that the parties to the deals want Supreme Court’s permission to go ahead. Once it is granted, more than Rs 5,000 crore will be available and the surplus can be used by Sebi to pay the investors. “Once permission is granted, we will not sit over even one rupee for a moment,” the counsel emphasised.
Ganesh reeled out figures according to which properties in Jodhpur, Vasai and Choma will bring sufficient amount to fulfil the bail condition. The Amby Valley is also on offer. But the company could not get better prices as, to quote the counsel, “unfortunately, the real estate market is at all-time low”. He challenged anyone to get a better price. Therefore, the judges suggested that Sebi find out an independent agency to take over the deals so that Sahara gets better prices for its nine domestic properties.
Sahara offered to put all the money it obtained through sale in an escrow account which will be immediately transferred to “Sahara-Sebi Fund” operated by Sebi. However, Sebi counsel Pratap Venugopal wanted to examine the escrow agreement. When Sahara said that the escrow account will be managed by a US company, the judges observed that it would not be amenable to Indian jurisdiction. However, they asked Sahara to show the terms of the escrow terms to Sebi counsel.
At one stage, the judges remarked that Roy appeared to be “very comfortable” where he was staying, considering the delay in arranging the bail amount. Counsel said that “he is one of the captains of industry and he would not stay even one day more if he could avoid it”.
When the judges asked Sahara how Rs 140 crore in cash was reportedly seized recently from its Delhi premises, counsel replied that it was meant to disburse wages to employees who have not been paid for three months. The case will be heard next week after reply from Sebi.