Indian police fail to arrest head of Sahara conglomerate

by Reuters
Thursday, 27 February 2014 16:51 GMT

LUCKNOW, India, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Indian police failed on Thursday to detain Subrata Roy, head of the unlisted Sahara conglomerate, a day after India's highest court ordered his arrest for failing to attend a hearing.

Sahara and Roy, 65, have been accused of contempt for failing to comply with a 2012 court order to repay billions of dollars to investors in a bond scheme that was later ruled to be illegal.

Sahara, a household name through its long-running sponsorship of the Indian cricket team, says it has paid back most investors and that its remaining liability is less than the 51.2 billion rupees ($826 million) it has deposited with the regulator.

The group has vast real estate holdings as well as operations in media and hotels, including the Plaza Hotel in New York and London's Grosvenor House.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Roy's request that he be excused from the contempt hearing to be with his 92-year-old mother, and issued an arrest warrant.

But on Thursday, police failed to find him at his sprawling compound in the northern city of Lucknow.

"I met his ailing mother and other members of the family who were there," police inspector Ajit Singh Chauhan told a crowd of reporters after spending about 90 minutes inside the compound.

Three directors of Sahara companies did appear as scheduled on Wednesday. Sahara officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Roy, but his lawyers applied to the Supreme Court on Thursday for cancellation of the arrest order.

Roy, often described as a billionaire in media reports, said last year he had personal assets of less than $1 million.

Despite its profile, Sahara is outside the mainstream of corporate India. Unlike many Indian CEOs, Roy is not a regular on the industry conference circuit, but is often photographed with cricketers and Bollywood stars. ($1 = 62.0150 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Sharat Pradhan; Additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty in New Delhi; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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