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India's top court orders auction of Sahara's Aamby Valley project

Subrata Roy was first arrested in March 2014 after Sahara, a household name in India, failed to comply with a court order to refund money raised from millions of small investors by selling them bonds later ruled to be illegal. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Delhi, India Apr 17, 2017, 11.10 AM (IST)

The Supreme Court of India Monday asked Bombay High Court to sell the properties of the Sahara Group-owned Aamby Valley and directed its chief Subrata Roy to personally appear before it on April 28.

The bench asked the official liquidator, attached with the Bombay High Court, to auction the Rs 34,000 crore worth Aamby Valley properties and directly report to it. It also also directed Roy, the Sahara Group as well as market regulator SEBI to provide all necessary details relating to the properties to the official liquidator within 48 hours.

"Enough is enough. You cannot say something today and resile tomorrow," a bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and AK Sikri, said today, taking strong note of non-submission of the money.

The bench also cautioned Roy from playing with the court's order and said non-compliance of its order would invite the wrath of the law and ultimately he will be at his own peril.

The top court on Monday (April 17) also restrained one Prakash Swamy, who has filed an affidavit with regard to the sale of Sahara hotels in the USA, from leaving India and asked him to deposit Rs 10 crore as fine with market regulator SEBI.

Prakash Swamy will also have to appear in person before the top court on April 28.

On April 6, the top court had ordered the Sahara Group to deposit Rs 5092.6 crore in SEBI-Sahara refund account by April 17, and warned it would be "compelled" to auction the Aamby Valley properties in Pune if the order was not complied with.

The top court had told the group that no extension of time would be granted for depositing the amount.

The observation had come when the lawyer mentioned an interim plea seeking extension of time for depositing the money in the SEBI-Sahara refund account.

The court had also observed that it had clearly told the group that a "substantial amount" must come in the refund account.

"Whatever you do, we had told you that a substantial amount must come. Otherwise we will be compelled to put up Aamby Valley for auction," the bench had said, noting "What matters is the money coming in the kitty."

The apex court had on February 28 said "in case, the substantial amount is deposited, this court may think of extending the time, otherwise appropriate direction shall be issued".

An international real estate firm -- which had shown willingness to buy Sahara's stake in New York-based Plaza Hotel for USD 550 million -- was asked by the court last month to deposit Rs 750 crore in the SEBI-Sahara refund account, instead of the top court registry to show its bonafide.

The Supreme Court had earlier directed attachment of Sahara Group's prime property for realisation of money to be paid to its investors.

It had also asked the group to provide it within two weeks the list of "unencumbered properties" which can be put up for public auction to realise the remaining over Rs 14,000 crore of the principal amount of around Rs 24,000 crore that has to be deposited in the SEBI-Sahara account for refunding the investors.

Subrata Roy was sent to Tihar jail on March 4, 2014.

On November 28 last year, the court asked Subrata Roy to deposit Rs 600 crore more by February 6 in the refund account to remain out of jail and warned that failure to do so would result in his return to prison.

He was granted four-week parole to attend the funeral of his mother on May 16, 2016.

His parole has been extended by the court ever since.

Besides Roy, two other directors -- Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary -- were arrested for failure of the group's two companies -- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) -- to comply with the court's August 31, 2012 order to return Rs 24,000 crore to their investors.

(WION with inputs from PTI)

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