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09 December 2023

Head of India's Sahara conglomerate surrenders to police

By Reuters

One of India's most prominent businessmen, Subrata Roy, turned himself in on Friday after the Supreme Court this week ordered his arrest for failing to appear at a hearing in a long-running dispute with the country's securities regulator.
Roy is chairman of Indian conglomerate Sahara, which has vast real estate holdings and interests in media companies and hotels, including the Plaza Hotel in New York and London's Grosvenor House. The unlisted company, which says it has a net worth of $11 billion, is also household name in India thanks to its sponsorship of the national cricket team.

The court had issued an arrest warrant for Roy after he failed to turn up to a contempt hearing on Wednesday. A day later, police went to Roy's sprawling residence in the northern city of Lucknow, but could not find him.

Roy had previously asked the court to excuse him from attending hearings so he could look after his ailing, 92-year-old mother, but his request was rejected.

Early on Friday, Roy issued a statement saying he had not been "absconding". His lawyer and son both later said Roy had turned himself in.

"As a law-abiding citizen he wilfully decided to submit himself to the Lucknow police," Roy's son, Seemanto Roy, told a media briefing in New Delhi.

"He gave assurance to be present in the next hearing on March 4," he added.

Police in Lucknow confirmed that Roy was in their custody.

Sahara is locked in a battle with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which accuses it of 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.

The company says it has already paid back investors and that its remaining liability had been less than the 51.2 billion rupees ($826 million) it had deposited with SEBI.

Roy, who sports a bushy moustache and often wears a black waistcoat, is renowned for his eccentric ways. He calls himself managing worker and chairman of Sahara and "chief guardian" of the company, which he refers to as the world's biggest family.

India media sometimes describe Roy as a billionaire but last year, the 65-year-old said his personal assets did not exceed $1 million. He is regularly photographed with cricketers and Bollywood stars.