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Sebi-Sahara row: RBI moves SC to stop asset sale

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 13, 2015 21:04 IST
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In a fresh turn of events in the Sahara case, the Reserve Bank on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking to implead itself as a party in the company's tussle with Sebi and sought to stop one of its firms from disposing off assets for securing the release of its chief Subrata Roy.

In an application, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), sought modification of the order allowing Sahara Group to sell its assets for generating funds.

It has asked the apex court to restrain Sahara India Financial Corporation Ltd (SIFCL) from utilising any of its assets, including securities, for paying dues to Securities and Exchange Board of India on the ground that SIFCL is Residuary Non-Banking Financial Firm and falls under its (RBI) regulatory control.

The apex court, on June 4, 2014, had modified its one of its earlier 2013 order "to the extent of permitting alienation of the securities and assets of the group companies of Sahara including SIFCL for the purpose of making payments under the directions of the apex court."

The apex court has set a condition that Roy has to deposit Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) to ensure his release from Tihar jail where he has been lodged since March 4, 2014.

The RBI, in its plea, has said, "...this court may be pleased to modify the order dated June 4, 2014 and pass an order restraining the respondents/non applicants including the company from utilising any of the assets of SIFCL including the securities, which are maintained by the company  under paragraph 6 of the RNBC Directions for the purpose of paying into SEBI-Sahara Refund Account."

It has also sought a direction to "credit to an escrow account with any nationalised bank if any amount already deposited in the SEBI-Sahara Refund Account or account of the partnership firm Sahara India or any other group derived out of the assets of M/s SIFCL."

The RBI said that it was necessary to ensure that the funds of the company are utilised for the purpose of repayment to the depositors and are not being diverted on the pretext of complying with the directions of the apex court.

The plea said, "RBI had carried out the inspection of the company at annual intervals under RBI Act and it was noticed that the deposit-taking activity of SIFCL were not in conformity with prudent practices and its direct ones were being violated."

The plea has also sought direction to SIFCL to disclose the details of its assets and Aggregate Liability to depositors of the company as on December 31, 2014.

The statutory auditors of the company (SIFCL) had said that it has sold securities from "the Directed Investments maintained in terms of paragraph 6(1)(b) of Residuary

Non-Banking Financial Company Direction 1987" and transferred an amount of Rs 94.85 crore to the SEBI-Sahara Account during June 2014 subsequent to the SC order of June 4, it said.

"This was also corroborated later on during inspection of the company. It has also been learnt that the company has sold securities amounting to Rs 524.98 crore from the Directed Investments maintained in terms of RNBC Directions and had remitted the funds to its designated bank account at Lucknow without obtaining prior approval of the Bank as required in terms of RNBC Directions 1987.

"The funds were remitted to different bank accounts of its various branches as observed during inspection by the Bank from the account statement of the company," RBI said.

"The auditors have stated that though the sale of securities was purportedly for repayment to depositors of the company, however, a majority of the amount, Rs 484.67 crore (Rs 4.84 billion) has been transferred to the account of its various branches. Thus, the funds have not been utilised for repayment to depositors or crediting to SEBI-Sahara Account as required in terms of the order of this court," it said.

It appears that the company has been utilising its assets and the securities held by it for the purpose of complying with the orders passed by this court against other companies in the group and its directors, the plea said.

In order to prevent such overlapping of control, it is necessary for the applicant to intervene and seek necessary directions from this court, the RBI said.

The apex court, on January 9, had allowed Sahara Group to go ahead with its proposed transactions with some conditions including the approval of RBI for the transfer to India of the funds raised in the US to meet the requirement set for release of Roy, who is lodged in Tihar jail since March 4 last year for non-refund of over Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion) with interest to depositors. 

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