Sahara likely to face music from other regulators too

With market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) freezing the bank accounts of two Sahara Group firms — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIREC) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation (SHIC) — and promoter Subrata Roy in the R24,000-crore optionally fully convertible debenture (OFCD) issue, analysts feel it is the end of the road for the group.

Not only will the group face difficulty in running its day-to-day operations, but it would also not be able to raise money from the market. The immediate casualty could be its plans to open a retail chain, Q-Shop.

With Sebi cracking the whip, industry sources maintain that the group may face rough times at the hands of other regulators examining the manner in which Sahara made overseas acquisitions like the Grosvenor House hotel in London.

The reported findings of a secret intelligence report by the foreign financial intelligence unit, which indicates how the money raised through the OFCDs moved overseas in an unauthorised manner to fund the acquisition. However, the Sahara Group has strongly rebutted these charges.

According to Sandeep Parekh, founder, Finsec Law Advisors, there seems to be no further relief for the group. "Sebi's action is based out of a Supreme Court order which says that Sebi is supposed to attach bank accounts, properties, whatever is available. Beyond the Supreme Court there is only god to pray to. The Sebi order has kind of shown the mirror," Parekh told a TV news channel.

According to him, Sahara is left with two alternatives: One, to submit for attachment properties that it has in the Indian subcontinent and two, face contempt of court. As a last resort, Sahara can ask for more time from the Supreme Court.

On top of the the freezing of the bank accounts and attachment of the properties, Sahara also faces a contempt of court charge on which the court gave it four weeks' time on February 6 to explain why action should not be initiated against it.

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