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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

SC warns Sahara of probe on Rs. 22k cr refund source

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 10, 2014
First Published: 00:55 IST(10/1/2014) | Last Updated: 02:06 IST(10/1/2014)

An angry Supreme Court on Thursday warned of a CBI probe against the Sahara group if it failed to reveal the source of the Rs. 22,000 crore it claimed to have refunded to 33 million of its investors.

A bench of justice KS Radhakrishnan and justice JS Khehar rapped the Subrata Roy-led group for its “obnoxious” behaviour and said its two companies — Sahara Real Estate Corporation and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation — would have to account for very rupee.

“You (Sahara) must have taken money from banks or raised through sale (of properties) or through other ways. Where did you get the money from?” the bench asked. Merely saying that “I am not going to tell you” won’t do, it said.

Roy’s plea to travel abroad would be entertained only after Sahara furnished the details, the court said, giving the company till January 23 to file an affidavit explaining the source of money. The case will now be heard on January 28.

The court had in November restrained Roy from leaving the country. The restriction was imposed after market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) told the SC Sahara had failed to comply with its direction to provide property papers in lieu of Rs. 24,000 crore it owed to millions of investors.

The bench expressed its disapproval when it was brought to the court’s notice that Sahara had written a letter to Sebi, saying source of the money was “immaterial”.

“Sending one or the other letter to Sebi is so obnoxious.... It’s not a fishing inquiry ...if you are not willing to inform about the source, we will order investigation. We will summon CBI and registrar of companies (RoC),” the bench said.

Warning the group not to resort to delaying tactics anymore, the court said “don’t think that this court is helpless” and wondered why the RoC had not acted against the companies yet.

The regulator told the court that Sahara had refused to divulge the source of Rs. 20,000 crore it claimed to have repaid to its investors. The market regulator described as “exorbitant” the company’s claims that the title deeds it submitted were worth Rs. 20,000 crore.

Sahara’s corporate communications head Abhijit Sarkar didn’t respond to repeated calls and SMSes sent by HT.

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