NEW DELHI: The Sahara group told the Supreme Court it was selling its three prime properties in London and New York to raise money to secure the release of Subrata Roy and two other directors. The court, however, asked Sahara to place before it the communication it had exchanged with the Bank of China with which these properties were mortgaged.
The court said Sahara would obtain a "confirmation from the Bank of China to the effect that the valuation reports prepared in respect of the three properties... by CBRE and JLL, have been prepared at the instance of the Bank of China and that the valuation reports have been accepted by the bank to be correct".
The court said this "could lend reassurance to the court that the value/stakes held by Sahara in these properties are sought to be transferred on the basis of the true market value of the said assets". The court sought these details as it noted there was nothing on record before it to show that Sahara made any request to the Bank of China at any stage to dispose of their stakes in the three overseas properties.
The court recorded Sahara's statement that the Bank of China "will also be requested to confirm the amount that is outstanding towards the loan advanced by it" for the three properties "to give a clear picture to the court as to the outstanding liability that remains to be liquidated by Sahara qua the said properties". The bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice A.K. Sikri reserved its order on Sahara's application seeking lifting of the embargo on its bank accounts and nine properties in different parts of the country including the mortgage of its real estate assets in the Aamby Valley project. The court also reserved its order on Roy's plea seeking to be placed under house arrest if he could not be granted bail. Roy is at present in Tihar jail after the court sent him to judicial custody March 4 for not complying with the court's Aug 31, 2012 and Dec 5, 2012, order to return the investors' 24,000 crore that Sahara's two companies SIRECL and SHICL had raised from investors through Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures (OFCDs).
Roy's problems were further compounded with the court saying that he along with two other directors, Ashok Roy Choudhary and Ravi Shankar Dubey, would be released only after its order of March 26 was fully complied with. By the said order, the court said that for securing release of Roy and the others, Sahara will have to deposit with the court registry 10,000 crore, of which 5,000 crore would be in cash and 5,000 crore in bank guarantee.
This money, the court said, would be a part payment of the investors' money that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) was directed to return after due verification. As the court said Roy's release was subject to full compliance of the March 26 order, counsel Rajiv Dhawan asked if Roy will not be released till the order is met. "We are sorry to say that is it," said Justice Thakur, making the court's position clear. Saying it was impossible to comply with the order when Roy was in incarceration, Dhawan told the court "you are really condemning us to jail till the end of the year, may be one year, two years".
"It is astonishing. They are in jail for three months. Under contempt law, the total incarceration is of six months," Dhawan told the court. Dhawan submitted that unless Roy and the two other directors were released, no transaction would materialise as Roy, being the head of the group, had the last word in all business deals. The court replied: "You are a big parivar. You have capacities not just financial but also of manpower, who can get together and generate the funds and you will be out." To drive home the complexity of the talks under way, Dhawan said discussions were going on with the Sultan of Brunei and the Bank of China and the same cannot move forward without Roy being actively involved in it.