New Delhi, Sep 8:
The Supreme Court Monday granted another 15 working days to Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy to negotiate the sale of three hotels located in New York and London to arrange Rs.10,000 crore as part payment of investors’ money.
The part payment of Rs.10,000 crore that group companies SIRECL and SHICL have to pay to market regulator SEBI also happens to be the condition for the grant of bail to Roy and two other group directors Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary who are in judicial custody since March 4.
A bench of Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice A.K. Sikri, while granting another extension of 15 working days in the conference hall of the Tihar Jail court complex, said: “If we shut the doors on him, it does not take him or us anywhere.”
The second extension of 15 working days commences from Sep 10 as the first extension of 15 working days comes to end Sep 9.
While granting this extension, the court noted the statement by senior counsel S. Ganesh, appearing for Sahara, that Sahara would try to clinch the deal in the extended time and seek no further extension.
The court in its Aug 14 order while granting the first extension of 15 working days had said: “We make it clear that we will not be inclined to grant any further extension and the contemnors would do well to finalise the on-going negotiations within the extended period.”
Roy, Dubey and Choudhary were sent to judicial custody on March 4 for their failure to comply with the court’s directions of Aug 31, 2012 and Dec 5, 2012 and that of Feb 25, 2013 directing the two group companies to return the money collected through optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs).
In the course of the hearing, the court asked Sahara’s counsel if they were facing so many difficulties in raising Rs.10,000 crore what would happen when they have to raise the balance amount of Rs.27,000-28,000 crore.
As Ganesh told the court that for the time being, they were only looking at the eye of the bird and once they are through it would be the rest, the court retorted that it wanted Sahara to see the whole bird and not just the eye alone.
At the outset of the hearing, Ganesh told the court that soon after it appeared that the deal was set to be through, there was a report in Wall Street Journal that said Sultan of Brunei, whose Islamic state practised medieval laws entailing death by stoning for homosexuals and adulterers was bidding for the New York hotels, causing protests.
He told the court that as a consequence of these protests, the prospective buyer, who had earlier signed the principal master agreement, developed cold feet and has second thoughts on the deal.
However, Roy was able to persuade the Brunei ruler not to bury the deal and keep it on hold till things cooled down. Ganesh told the court that Roy was in talks with three or four other parties but these were at a nascent stage.
The court was told that as a consequence of the New York hotel deal going through rough weather, the Bank of China, that backed Sahara when it bought said hotels, was weighing option of stepping in to recover its investment in the three hotels.
Three off-shore hotels that Sahara is negotiating to sell are Grosvenor House Hotel in London and the New York Plaza and Dream New York hotels in New York apart from other properties within the country.
While senior counsel Arvind Dattar told the court that sometime back Sahara had told the court that its nine properties within the country were worth Rs.2,500 crore but nothing was being done to sell them, amicus curiae Shekhar Naphade said there was no way to objectively assess the clams by Sahara on the sale of its off-shore hotels.