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Friday, September 25, 2020

Aamby Valley in Sahara probe: Over Rs 62,000 cr depositors’ cash in loss-making firm

In 2018-19, the last year for which financial numbers are available, Aamby Valley Ltd made a consolidated loss of Rs 994 crore compared to a loss of Rs 1,133 crore a year earlier. Its total income came down to Rs 958 crore in 2018-19 from Rs 1,530 crore a year ago.

Written by Khushboo Narayan , Sushant Kulkarni | Mumbai, Pune | Updated: September 7, 2020 10:20:27 am
sahara group, sahara group fraud probe, sahara aamby valley city probe, sahara group subrata roy, sahara group supreme court case, business news, indian express businessAt the end of March 31, 2019, the company had total assets of Rs 61,095 crore compared to Rs 64,777 crore a year earlier. (Express Photo by Sushant Kulkarni)

Aamby Valley Ltd, the company which is under the scanner of the government for getting investments of Rs 62,643 crore from deposits collected by four Sahara cooperative societies allegedly in violation of norms, has been making losses for at least the past five years, its consolidated accounts show.

In 2018-19, the last year for which financial numbers are available, Aamby Valley Ltd made a consolidated loss of Rs 994 crore compared to a loss of Rs 1,133 crore a year earlier. Its total income came down to Rs 958 crore in 2018-19 from Rs 1,530 crore a year ago.

The firm not only operates the Aamby Valley hill city located amidst the lush Sahyadri mountain ranges near Lonavala in Maharashtra but also owns properties in India and abroad through 12 Indian subsidiaries and 19 foreign subsidiaries located in Mauritius, British Virgin Islands, Macedonia, UK and West Indies, show records.

At the end of March 31, 2019, the company had total assets of Rs 61,095 crore compared to Rs 64,777 crore a year earlier.

Read | Sahara red-flagged for fraud probe: Rs 86,000 crore from 4 crore depositors

Records scrutinised by the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies show that between 2012 and 2014, the four Sahara societies — Sahara Credit Cooperative, Humara India Credit Cooperative Society Ltd, Saharayn Universal Multipurpose Society Ltd and Stars Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd – raised Rs 86,673 crore from depositors and invested Rs 62,643 crore in Aamby Valley Ltd, allegedly in violation of norms.

As The Indian Express first reported, the Registrar has asked the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to launch a probe by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) into Aamby Valley Ltd. The Registrar has alleged these four societies have shown “fictitious profits” in transaction of shares of Aamby Valley Ltd.

A Sahara Group spokesperson said the cooperative societies have 4 crore depositor members and the money invested in Aamby Valley Ltd was used for “development, operating and credit clearance” of Aamby Valley.

“Our society is not accepting any deposit/contribution from general public, we are only accepting deposits/contribution from our members who are having voting rights in our society. We are investing our money as per the provisions of our bye-laws which were approved by the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies…(which) in 2018 has specially conducted a special audit of our societies through independent chartered accountant firms and we came clean…there was no violation of bye-laws/ act. We always welcome anytime any type of inspection/ audit”, said the spokesperson.

Aamby Valley Ltd’s flagship project is Aamby Valley City, which is spread over 10,000 acres and eight villages near Lonavala. The hill city boasts of an airstrip, helipads, captive power plant, two small dams, an international school, shopping complexes, luxury leisure facilities and a hospital. It has over 800 luxury bungalows priced between Rs 5 crore to Rs 20 crore.

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In 2017, the Supreme Court attached Aamby Valley city for realising money to repay investors of two Sahara firms Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL) that had raised over Rs 20,000 crore from 3 crore investors in alleged violation of norms.

At that time, the apex court had valued Aamby Valley at Rs 37,392 crore, a figure disputed by the Sahara Group which said its valuation was about Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Despite the court setting a reserve price lower than Sahara’s estimates, Aamby Valley failed to find a buyer.

In July 2018, the Supreme Court lifted the attachment of Aamby Valley after several failed attempts by the official liquidator to auction the property to repay the depositors of Sahara.

According to Aamby Valley’s consolidated financial statement of 2018-19, the company has given Rs 2,035 crore to Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as payment on behalf of SIRECL and SHCIL as mandated by the Supreme Court.

The apex court, in August 2012, ordered the Sahara Group to deposit with SEBI over Rs 24,000 crore collected by SIRECL and SHCIL through issuance of bonds in violation of norms.

Most of the activities inside the city have halted since 2017 when the Supreme Court ordered the attachment. For a brief period in between, some facilities had started getting patrons for functions, conferences, events etc which are on hold since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

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