Sebi moves US court to claim $12 m proceeds of Sahara jet sale

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has approached a US court with claims on $12-million proceeds from the sale of a corporate jet owned by the Sahara Group, which is entangled in a stock market fraud worth over Rs24,000 crore.

The Indianapolis court in the US is looking into disbursement of money collected from the aircraft sale that was triggered by a litigation.

The US court, however, declined to entertain Sebi's plea at this stage and asked the market regulator to "properly file a claim prior to the Bar Date and in accordance with the terms of the court's order".

The court, however, ruled that the court-appointed receiver can initiate wire transfers from the escrow account to Sebi-Sahara Refund Account after being satisfied with the validity of the demands.

The Airbus Corporate Jet was purchased by Sahara Group's Hospitality Business Limited (HBL) in December 2012. HBL had then entered into a Cabin Completion Agreement (CCA) with US-based Comlux America for $31 million.

However, Sahara could not make payments to Comlux, a leading provider of aircraft management and design services for VIP customers, due to liquidity issues following the SC order to deposit funds with Sebi.

Comlux could not proceed with the cabin work of the aircraft as Sahara failed to make payments in time.

Comlux's attorneys had, in July 2014, filed a case in the Indianapolis court and sought sale of the aircraft. HBL was asked to pay damages worth an estimated $6 million to Comlux. While HBL paid $3.795 million, the balance amount remained outstanding.

Subsequently, Eagle Creek Aviation Services was appointed for sale of the aircraft, which was sold to Hua Yuan International Development Co Ltd in December 2014. The sale proceeds were kept in an escrow account, from which payments were made, including towards Comulux's damage and certain fees, while claims were invited from other parties till a 'Bar Date' of 1 March 2015.

The Sebi-Sahara Refund account was created following a Supreme Court order in August 2012 directing the two Sahara Group real estate firms to refund the bondholders over Rs24,000 crore, in principal and interest, and deposit the amount with Sebi for onward payments to investors.

While Sahara claims to have already made over 95% of repayments directly, this has been disputed by Sebi and the group chief Subrata Roy has been in jail for more than a year.