SEBI initiates multi-pronged probe into Sahara Group accounts
New Delhi: Nearly a week after the Supreme Court rapped Sahara Group for not refunding Rs 27,000 crore to investors who had put their money into two of its companies — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIREC) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation (SHIC), market watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has written to Sahara group to furnish details of bank accounts and properties held by them so as to enable it to take recourse to appropriate legal remedies as per the apex court directions.
SEBI has also asked various banks to provide it all account details of the Sahara group as well as their promoters and directors. The direction came after SEBI sought help from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as part of a multi-pronged probe into the entity.
SEBI has also asked bondholders to hold on to their original documents and produce the same to it when called for, keeping in view the investor complaints received alleging "forceful conversion of OFCDs into instruments of other Sahara Group companies," Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena said.
On 5 December, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir had extended the deadline for repayment till February. It ordered Sahara to pay Rs 5,120 crore immediately to Sebi, Rs 10,000 crore by January, and the rest by February. This suggests that the court still thinks nearly Rs 25,000 crore may be owed to investors.
The bench also comprising justices S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar had made it clear that the first instalment of Rs 10,000 crore has to be paid by first week of January 2013 and the remaining by first week of February 2013.
On 1 December this year, an advertisement issued by Sahara group said two of its companies — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIREC) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation (SHIC), had returned Rs 33,000 crore of money collected through optionally full convertible debentures (OFCDs).
The ad reads: “We started OFCD in these two companies in 2008/2009. Most of the money deposited with us was for 5 to 10 years. But now we have cleared around Rs 33,000 crores liability.”
A Sahara ad released on 9 December claimed it owed investors only Rs 2,620 crore as on date. It mentions that “Total liability was around Rs 25,000 crores of both the OFCD companies”, but then says only Rs 2,620 crore of this Rs 25,000 crore was left unpaid, for which it had given Sebi a cheque – adding an extra Rs 2,500 crore in case there were any discrepancies.
The details of actions taken by SEBI, which also includes its request to Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh governments to initiate civil and criminal proceedings against two Sahara group companies, were listed by Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena in a written reply to a Lok Sabha question.
SEBI has also launched prosecution and adjudication proceedings against Sahara and its promoter/directors, Meena said, adding that the regulator is also regularly submitting to the Supreme Court a case status report approved by Justice BN Aggarwal, as per the court directions. (with PTI inputs)