SEBI freezes accounts of 2 Sahara group firms

Subrata RoyThe Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has ordered the freezing of more than 100 bank accounts of two Sahara group firms for failing to refund over Rs24,000 crore to investors as ordered by the Supreme Court.

SEBI also attached immovable assets of and properties of Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIREC) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation (SHIC), sources said.

The move comes a week after the apex court criticised the market regulator for delay in acting against the two Sahara group firms that have failed to refund the Rs24,000 crore to investors as directed by it.

The Supreme Court, in its order of 31 August 2012, had directed SEBI to ascertain the genuineness of an estimated 30 million holders of optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs) issued by two Sahara group companies - Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd and Sahara Real Estate Corporation Ltd - and refund of the money with interest.

The apex court had, on 5 December, allowed the two companies nine weeks' time to pay back Rs24,000 crore with 15 per cent interest, with an immediate upfront payment of Rs5,120 crore.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir had ordered the group to immediately hand over a demand draft of Rs5,120 crore to SEBI and directed the two companies to deposit the balance amount with the market regulator in two installments to be cleared by early February.