More than six years after initiating a Supreme Court-monitored recovery and refund process for an estimated ₹24,000 crore collected by Sahara group from nearly three crore investors, regulator SEBI has received less than 20,000 claims while two-third of them have been refunded a total amount of ₹ 106.10 crore.
Sahara group said this only validates its long-maintained stand that more than 95 per cent investors were already repaid directly by it and the money deposited by it with SEBI for refunds amounted to ‘double payment’ The group said the ‘idle’ money lying with SEBI should be returned to it so that it can use the same for business expansion and for creating jobs.
The amount refunded so far by SEBI includes ₹56.86 crore of principal and ₹49.24 crore paid as interest for 13,543 refund claims made by bondholders of two Sahara group firms, as per the latest update from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
The refund has been made from a special account created by SEBI, to which Sahara was asked to deposit the money even as the group has maintained that it had directly refunded more than 95 per cent of investors.
SEBI said an aggregate amount of ₹15,438 crore has been recovered so far from Sahara through the various direction of the Supreme Court and the attachment orders issued by the regulator in 2013.
The regulator said ₹20,173 crore (the recovered amount along with the interest earned on them after providing for refunds made to the investors) was deposited in nationalised banks as on March 31, 2019 as per the Supreme Court order.
Giving update in its latest annual report, SEBI said it had received 19,547 applications involving 53,233 accounts as on March 31, 2019, and made refunds concerning 13,543 applications involving 38,143 accounts for an aggregate amount of ₹106.10 crore.
While more than 4,000 cases (involving claims totalling ₹17.3 crore) were pending at SEBI, 254 cases were pending with Sahara (for ₹71.6 lakh) and over 1,000 cases were pending at the end of investors (over ₹3.84 crore).
A total of 131 applications have been declared as ‘disputed cases’ and involve a total amount of less than ₹50 lakh, while 542 applications seeking a refund of over ₹1.57 crore have been ‘closed’ after investors failed to respond.
SEBI had ordered Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL) in 2011 to refund the money raised from investors through certain bonds known as Optionally Fully Convertible Bonds (OFCDs).
After a long process of appeals and cross-appeals, the Supreme Court on August 31, 2012 upheld SEBI’s directions asking the two firms to refund the money collected from investors with 15 per cent interest.
Replying to PTI queries, Sahara’s lawyer Gautam Awasthi said SEBI’s annual report “validates our long maintained plea that Sahara has already repaid more than 95 per cent of around 3 crore OFCD investors of its two companies“.
He said it was a case of “double payment” as Sahara first made the repayment to investors and then an equivalent amount was deposited with SEBI.
“We have been requesting SEBI to initiate on-ground verification of investors as per the Supreme Court order of 2012, which has not commenced till yet. If verification is done by SEBI, it will come out that most of the investors have already been paid and all this money will come back to Sahara,” Awasthi said.
The lawyer also claimed that SEBI has refused to accept all original documents of the investors, their investment and the repayments made by Sahara and a large percentage of the documents are still lying in the group’s godown.
In its annual report, SEBI said it has been acting under the directions of the Supreme Court and its actions are overseen by Justice (retd) B N Agrawal. The regulator has filed 20 status reports before the apex court which have also been furnished to Sahara group.
Aamby Valley City
On Sahara group’s luxury resort project, Aamby Valley City, which was earlier proposed to be sold to recover the money, SEBI said the apex court has noted it was not in a position to be sold due to lack of bidders.
SEBI said it issued multiple advertisements after the apex court in May 2013 asked it to make refunds to all genuine investors who had lodged their claims with it.
The final round of advertisement was issued on March 26, 2018, giving July 2, 2018 as the last date, followed by another reminder on June 19, 2018 to inform the bondholders that it was their last and final opportunity and no further refund claims would be entertained.