The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has filed a petition with the Supreme Court (SC) to direct Sahara conglomerate chief Subrata Roy and two of his companies—Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd. (SHICL) to deposit Rs62,600 crore (US$8.43 billion). The money, which is due to the company’s investors, needs to be paid immediately or else his parole should be cancelled, SEBI has argued. A few years ago, Sahara had called SEBI 'sarkari goonda' in an ad published in all leading newspapers.
The market regulator petitioned the apex court that Sahara had failed to comply with 2012 and 2015 court orders to deposit the entire amount it collected from investors along with 15% annual interest. SEBI said the outstanding liability of the Sahara India Parivar group's two companies and the tycoon Subrata Roy has increased by 143% to Rs62,600 crore, including interest from the Rs25,700 crore he was ordered to pay in 2012. The market regulator says only a part of the principal amount had been deposited by Sahara. The company claims to have already deposited Rs22,000 crore with SEBI and claims that the market regulator is ‘mischievously’ adding interest on the entire amount to arrive at the sum now being demanded. SEBI has submitted in the court filing that the company has deposited only Rs15,000 crore.
In 2012, the apex court ruled that the Sahara group companies violated securities laws and illegally raised over Rs25,781 crore. Sahara contended that it raised funds in cash from millions of Indians who could not avail banking facilities. However, SEBI was unable to trace the investors and the bond scheme was ruled as illegal. Subrata Roy was sent to jail by the court in 2014 when he failed to attend a contempt of court hearing; he has been on bail since 2016. In 2013, SEBI initiated a Supreme Court-monitored recovery and refund for Rs24,000 crore collected by Sahara group from nearly three crore investors. However, it received less than 20,000 claims in over six years and about 66% of them were refunded a total amount of Rs106.10 crore. Sahara maintains that it has already returned the money of 95% of the investors.
SEBI stated that non-compliance by Sahara over eight years had caused SEBI 'great inconvenience' and that those guilty of contempt should be taken into custody if they failed to deposit the amount. SEBI told the SC "Saharas have made no efforts whatsoever to comply with the orders and directions". It further added: "On the other hand contemnors' liability is increasing daily and contemnors are enjoying their release from custody.”
The Sahara group has denied all wrongdoing and claimed in a statement “SEBI has 'mischievously' added 15% interest and it is a case of double payment as the companies have already paid back the investors.”
Sahara lawyers have been claiming that it was a case of 'double payment' as Sahara first made the repayment to investors and then an equivalent amount was deposited with SEBI. They further claim that a huge amount deposited by Sahara was lying unutilised and idle in banks, which was "not only hurting the interest of Sahara as a business organisation, but also impeding the economic growth of our country especially in these testing times of economic slowdown and global slump."
It has been a steep fall for the tycoon Subrata Roy, who once upon a time owned an airline, a formula one team, an IPL cricket team, plush hotels in London and New York, and financial companies, and was the main sponsor for the Indian cricket team.