The Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai police has initiated a preliminary investigation into the dealings of the Sahara Group even as the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) failed to track the source of funds the two Sahara group companies collected by way of optionally fully convertible (OFC) bonds.
News channel CNN-IBN quoted Mumbai EOW chief as saying that the probe has been initiated at the instance of the Government of India.
The move coincides with a SEBI directive to the two Sahara firms and their four top executives, including group chief Subrata Roy, to provide details of their assets and investments to the market regulator by 8 April.
Officials of market regulator SEBI today questioned Sahara group chief Subrata Roy and three other top executives in the case involving refund of the Rs24,000 collected from over 30 million investors by two realty outfits of the Sahara Group, Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL), but without any progress in tracing the source of funds.
Coming out of SEBI office after deposing before officials, Subrata Roy, however, said, "Money which remains unpaid to investors is with SEBI, we want to pay back investors as soon as possible."
He said SEBI was wasting time and misguiding the public over Sahara's investments.
"Sebi should have verified Sahara's investor base in the last four months," he added wryly.
It may be noted that Sahara brought truckloads of files allegedly pertaining to the OFCs raised by the two group companies to the SEBI office.
Roy said the group has declared all assets to SEBI and that he himself had informed the market regulator about not having any immovable property.
The EOW probe will focus on whether Sahara is intimidating investors.
The group on various occasions, including through newspaper advertisements, has accused SEBI and its top officials of not providing an opportunity to hear Sahara chief Subrata Roy and others for presenting their views.
The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), meanwhile, is scheduled to hear the appeals filed by Roy and others against a previous SEBI order for attachment of their bank accounts, assets and investments, on 13 April.
These properties include those related to the group's Aambey Valley resort town near Pune, other real estate assets in Delhi, Mumbai and at other places across the country, shares, mutual funds and various other investments.
The Supreme Court had directed the two Sahara realty outfits, SIRECL and SHCIL, to refund over Rs24,000 crore to their bondholders within three months. In its order dated 31 August 2012, the apex court had also asked SEBI to facilitate the refund after verifying genuineness of the investors.
Later on 5 December 2012, the court gave additional time to Saharas and asked it to make an immediate payment of Rs5,120 crore, followed by Rs10,000 crore by first week of January and the remainder by first week of February.
Sahara claims it has repaid all the monies except the amount lying with SEBI.