The Supreme Court recently ordered the auction of the famous Amby Valley property of the blighted Sahara Group, for its failure to further deposit Rs. 4000 crores, as part payment towards its overall dues of almost Rs. 40000 crores, refundable to its depositors. The Sahara CEO, its ‘Chief Worker’ as Subroto Roy likes to title himself, has now been out of jail for over a year on compassionate grounds, (due to the demise of his mother last year) and has since deposited Rs. 10000 crores with the Supreme Court, by sale of various Sahara assets. He has been desperately trying to pay the balance amount, by liquidating other assets, under the constant threat of a rearrest, for failure to do so. The Group has been persevering to sell its marque property, the Grosvenor House Hotel at Hyde Park, London, for about half a billion dollars since long, but has failed to find a serious buyer. It was earlier rumoured that the uber rich billionaire Rueben Brothers of London, are buying this renowed hotel, but the deal never went through. The unconfirmed news reports now say that the Barclays Brothers are now in the running to buy Grosvenor House, but time seems to be running out for Roy. The Supreme Court judges, hearing the Sahara plea for more time to pay and extension of Roy’s bail, said that the Court had run out of patience and that they were tired. The judge angrily remarked that, ‘the court has shown you so much leniency. But where is the money. We will send you to jail again.
Enough is enough….. We are tired’. The Sahara lawyer pleaded that the sale of assets is taking time, since no one wants to deal with a person still behind bars and that Roy has been paying money in parts, whenever he is out of jail. The Court was unmoved and has ordered Roy to be present in Court in the next hearing on April 28, when he is likely to be sent to jail again, for failure to deposit the promised amounts. The infuriated court also levied a fine of Rs. 10 crores on M. G. Capital Holdings, a US based real estate company, that had approached the Court, seeking to buy the overseas hotels of Sahara. Treating it as a gimmick to divert court attention, it has also initiated contempt of court proceedings against them.
The Sahara case has now been intermittently doing rounds of courts, with little respite for Roy. A one time powerful man, Subroto Roy who hobnobbed with India’s who’s who and top most elite and whose son’s weddings were attended by the Indian PM and his entire Union Cabinet in entourage, seems to have run out of luck. The Apex Indian Court is unmoved by his plight and is rightly concerned only of refund of illegally collected depositors funds, which are a staggering Rs. 40000 crores. The Court is also concerned about a blatant violation of law by Sahara, under which such an enormous amount of money was raised from hapless depositors, lured by Roy’s extensive network of slimy agents. Strangely, while on one hand, Sahara claims that it has repaid most of the depositors and there are no unpaid claims, yet on the other hand, it has been unable to produce the evidence in support of such claim. It lends credibility to the rumour that this money never belonged to the so called depositors and represents proceeds of money laundering done by Roy for his political friends.
Sahara is known to have a huge land bank and its assets are far in excess of its liabilities. But with real estate markets yet to recover from a slump, there are few takers for big ticket property deals on cash payment terms. Moreover, with its founder in and out of jail, it is bound to get a pittance of a price for its assets. The famous Amby Valley is reportedly worth Rs. 1 lakh crores, but under the Supreme Court forced auction, it will fetch a fraction thereof. If the Group is unable to pay by the next date of hearing, Roy returns to Tihar jail, leaving his cronies to liquidate the assets for his release again.