NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today sought a response from the beleaguered Sahara Group as to why a Receiver be not appointed to dispose of their properties to arrange Rs 36,000 crore paying its investors even as an European corporate offered to lend USD five billion to bail out the group's jailed chief Subrata Roy.
A Bench headed by Justice T S Thakur issued notice to the Saharas' on the application moved by the market regulator SEBI for appointment of Receiver as the Roy's two firms were not in a position to comply with apex court's August 31, 2012 order to refund the money to investors. The bench, also comprising Justices A R Dave and A K Sikri sought Saharas' response within four weeks and posted the matter after six weeks while declining the plea of its counsel and senior advocate Kapil Sibal that the court should wait for sometime for the outcome on the offer made by a new foreign company, Helvetia Group.
While dealing with SEBI's plea to appoint a receiver, the bench sought the view of senior advocate and amicus curiae in the matter Shekhar Naphade, who said "we are left with no alternative". "We have come to a situation that we have to face this. On appointing receiver, the court has to fix the terms and reference," Naphade said.
During the earlier hearing also, the bench had said it was evident that there was a difficulty for the group to sell its properties to arrange Rs 36,000 crore for making the payment in the SEBI-Sahara account since Roy has been in jail since March 4, 2014 and the sale of properties can be done by appointing a receiver.
The bench had said a retired judge of the apex court, who was appointed to oversee the action taken by SEBI against the Group, would be the chairman of the Receiver. Today's hearing commenced with a new foreign company seeking permission to intervene in the matter saying that it was ready to lend around Euro 720 million (approximately Rs 5000 crore) to Sahara's Aamby Valley and needed to time till October 15 to complete the agreement.
Senior advocate L Nageshwar Rao, appearing for Helvetia Group, whose promoters are from Qatar and residing in United Kingdom, are ready to lend the money which will save Saharas' three overseas hotels, Grosvenor House Hotel in London, the New York Plaza and Dream New York hotels, from being sold. Sibal said the hotels have to be released from Reuben Brothers.
He placed before the bench in sealed cover the documents relating to the mortgage deed executed in favour of Bank of China and arrangement made between the Bank of China and the Reuben Brothers. In the last hearing, the Sahara group had informed the court that the loan on hotels that was given by Bank of China has been taken over by Reuben Brothers whose main activities are in real estate, private equity, and venture capitalism.
Sibal had said there are already two offers to develop these properties which will fetch around USD six billion, equivalent to around Rs 36,000 crore. Meanwhile, the court's approval for sale of Sahara's Gorakhpur property has run into rough weather with accusation from the real estate developer that Sahara has not complied with the apex court order to give it the Memorandum of Understanding signed by persons duly authorised as power of attorney.
The court had last month virtually turned into an auction room as the two real estate firms had hiked their bids with Gorakhpur Real Estate Developers Private Limited surpassing the Rs 150 crore Samriddhi developers. Sibal said the Gorakhpur realtor did not have the money and instead was seeking the title of the property which cannot be done as the agreement was for developing the 140 acre land. He said Sahara was willing to have agreement with the Samridhi developers.
The bench suggested that the dispute could be sorted by apex court's retired judge B N Agrawal, who has been appointed to monitor the recovery of money by SEBI from the Sahara. However, Sibal expressed his reservation. For the interim bail of 67-year-old Roy, the court had put conditions like depositing Rs 5,000 crore in cash and a bank guarantee of equal amount and tough terms including payment of the entire Rs 36,000 crore, which includes interest. The money will be paid back to the investors of Sahara.
Roy is in jail since March 4, 2014 with two other directors of Sahara companies -- Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary.