Taking stern action against Sahara Group in the high-profile investor refund case involving over Rs 24,000 crore, market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India on Wednesday ordered the freezing of bank accounts and attachment of all properties of two group firms and top executives, including Subrata Roy.
SEBI's action follows directions from the Supreme Court, which had said last week that the market regulator was free to freeze accounts and attach properties if Sahara Group firms were not depositing the money with it for refund to investors.
Passing two separate orders against Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd and Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd, SEBI said that the two companies had raised Rs 6,380 crore and Rs 19,400 crore respectively from bondholders and various illegalities were committed in raising of these funds.
The Supreme Court in August last year had asked Sahara Group firms to refund the money with 15 per cent interest and had asked SEBI to facilitate the refund.
In December, the Sahara Group was allowed to pay the money in three installments, including an immediate payment of Rs 5,120 crore, followed by an installment of Rs 10,000 crore in the first week of January and the remainder by the first week of February.
In its orders passed on Wednesday, SEBI said that neither of the two installments was paid and therefore it is constrained to take necessary action as per the Supreme Court’s orders.
With regard to the payment of Rs 5,120 crore, Sahara Group has claimed that only Rs 2,620 crore remained to be refunded to investors and it has already paid Rs 19,400 crore to the bondholders.
The properties being attached by SEBI include the land owned by Sahara Group firm Aamby Valley Ltd, which has set up a resort village near Pune, development rights of land at prime locations in Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai and various other places across the country.
Besides, SEBI has also ordered attachment of equity shares held in Aamby Valley Ltd, units of mutual funds, bank and demat accounts and investments in all the branches of all banks. SEBI has asked all the banks to transfer the amounts lying in those accounts to its SEBI-Sahara Refund Account.
With regard to Subrata Roy and three other directors -- Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shanker Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary – SEBi has ordered freezing of all bank and demat accounts of these four persons, as also attachment of all moveable and immoveable properties in their name with immediate effect.
SEBI directed them to furnish the details of all moveable and immoveable properties in their name within 21 days, pending which they cannot alienate, dispose or encumber any of their assets.
The regulator said it is seeking attachment of all other movable and immoveable properties owned and/or held by the two companies SIRECL with immediate effect and asked them not to "alienate, dispose or in any manner encumber the same".
SEBI also directed the two firms to furnish details of any other investments within 21 days and restrained them with immediate effect from operating their bank and demat accounts and from withdrawing any investments.
The two companies have also been asked to deposit cash, bank balances and fixed deposits in their names to SEBIi and have also been barred from transferring any shares held by them.
SEBI said it has informed the Reserve Bank of India and the Enforcement Directorate as well regarding its actions against Sahara Group firms.
The assets being attached include investments of SIRECL and SHICL in group companies, special purpose vehicles and partnership firms. The necessary orders for the sale of all attached properties would be passed in due course after getting their full particulars, SEBI said.