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Sahara-Sebi Case Hearing Adjourned To Apr 13

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The Securities Appellate Tribunal on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 adjourned till April 13 its hearing on Sahara group chief Subrata Roy's plea against Sebi's attachment order of his bank accounts and other assets, along with those of two group firms and their top executives.

Roy has approached the SAT against the attachment orders issued by Sebi last month. The Tribunal, in its last hearing in Mumbai on March 23, had decided to hold its final hearing in the matter here in the National Capital on March 26.

However, SAT on Tuesday decided to take up the matter again on April 13, along with all the related petitions in the case.

The case relates to a Supreme Court direction ordering refund of more than Rs 24,000 crore of investors' money raised by two Sahara group firms -- Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd -- through issue of bonds, wherein Sebi has been asked to facilitate the refund.

After expiry of the court-set deadline for the refund, Sebi in February issued attachment orders against the two firms and their top executives, including Subrata Roy.

Roy's appeal against Sebi order was listed by SAT for 'Final Hearing' today, while Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd were also listed as part of the proceedings "For Orders" in the case.

Sahara has questioned Sebi's action for attaching Roy's property, saying that neither he was issued a show-cause notice nor did Sebi follow procedure of securing an enabling order from a judicial magistrate.

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Countering Sahara's claims, Sebi has sought dismissal of the plea, saying that the Supreme Court order in the case was self-explanatory and executive in nature and Saharas had been given many occasions to present their case.

In the meantime, Sebi has also approached the Supreme Court seeking orders for detention of Subrata Roy and this plea has been posted for hearing in the first week of April.

Days after this, Sahara took out large full page ads. Saying "Enough is Enough," Roy asked the regulator's top officials for a live 60-minute televised face-off.

The Sahara group, an unlisted conglomerate best known as the lead sponsor of the Indian cricket team and a buyer of overseas luxury hotels, Sahara has repaid most investors.

It says its total liability is less than the Rs 5,120 crore it had deposited with the regulator as the first repayment installment following the top court's ruling that the bonds it issued were illegal.

The money it raised from small investors, many of them poor villagers who don't have bank accounts, was to be invested in real estate and other projects, according to regulatory filings. Sahara's other businesses include media and retail.

The regulator declined to comment on the case, including Roy's challenge to the televised debate. Roy was not immediately available to be interviewed.

Unlike many of India's hereditary tycoons, Roy had humble business origins. He started out in 1978 with a mechanical engineering diploma, 2,000 rupees ($37) and a Lambretta scooter in the eastern Uttar Pradesh city of Gorakhpur. From modest roots, Sahara has pursued splashy deals.

In late 2010, it bought the Grosvenor House hotel in London and a year later acquired New York's Plaza Hotel, its two biggest overseas deals. In 2010 it looked into buying English Premier League soccer club Liverpool and the debt of film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, although neither deal materialised.

Roy's public profile is mostly linked to sport. In 2011, Sahara paid $100 million for 42.5 per cent of the Formula One racing team of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya. A year earlier, it paid $370 million for the Pune Indian Premier League cricket franchise.

(Agencies)