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Public Relations Council of India (PRCI), the ace body of Communications and PR professionals awarded Shri Abhijit Sarkar, Head – Corporate Communications & Director-Sahara Adventure Sports Limited, Sahara India Pariwar, with the coveted Chanakya Jury’s Special Award 2015 for his exemplary work in the field of Sports Communications. Shri JualOram, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India presented the award to Shri Abhijit Sarkar, in a glittering ceremony held at New Delhi on 13th March, 2015.

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This award is an eloquent manifestation of the fact that Shri Abhijit Sarkar is probably the only sports management expert in the country who has so effectively contributed to sports in India, across the board. His exceptional efforts in bringing together Corporate for promoting sports in India from regional, national and international level not only took sports like cricket to greater heights but also brought excellence in those sports which are less popular and require infrastructural and financial support and there is hardly any sport left in the country where his efforts and encouragement have not been recognized. His outstanding contribution to Indian sports is also evident from the fact that he is the Co-Chairman of FICCI Sports Committee for the past two years and also a member of the prestigious Sports Committee of CII for last three years. He has also been the Convener of Publicity & Media Sub Committee of the XIX Commonwealth Games, 2010.

For his contribution in the field of Sports and Corporate Communication in general and Public Relations in specific, he has been awarded with the ‘Most Dynamic Corporate Communications Professional of the Year’ in the Power brands Hall of Fame Awards in London 2011. He has also been conferred with Indy’s Excellence Award 2008 in the field of Corporate Communications, Crises Management and PR and ‘Communicator of the Year” award 2011 by IPRCCA, ‘Chanakya Corporate Communication Professional of the Year’ by Public Relations Council of India.

Additionally, Mr. Sarkar’s unparalleled expertise and leadership in the field of sports have also accorded him vital positions in various sports bodies. He is Director – Sahara Adventure Sports Limited, Director – Sahara Force India (India’s only Formula One team), Director – U.P. Wizards (U.P. Franchise team of Hockey India League), Director – Ranchi Rays (Ranchi Franchise team of Hockey India League), Director – Awadhe Warriors (Lucknow Franchise team of Indian Badminton League), and Director – Sahara Warriors (Sahara’s Polo team). His charm and dignity made him a personal favorite of nearly all the eminent sportspersons who always consider him as their indispensable support.

It was in consideration of his deep understanding of the nuances of media and sports, vast experience and expertise in the area of communications and Sports Management that he was appointed as a Convener – Publicity & Media Sub Committee of the XIX Commonwealth Games, 2010. For the same, Sahara eventually received Gold Award under the category of ‘Public Service Campaign’ by the Public Relation Council of India in 2011.

Mr. Abhijit Sarkar has played pivotal role in cementing Sahara’s inseparable association with Sports, for the past 15 years, whether it is the Sahara Cup in Canada, Sponsorship of the Indian Cricket Team for 14 years, Indian Hockey Team, Indian Women Cricket team, Indian Volley ball team or playing a pivotal role in Sahara’s association with Hockey, Boxing, Wrestling, Archery, Shooting, Football, Golf, Polo, and other sports disciplines. Besides, being the most visible face of Corporate Communications professionals in India, he also happens to be one of the tremendously successful in taking Indian sports to the next level. Under Mr. Sarkar’s visionary guidance Sahara is supporting 73 Sports person out of which 5 had won medals in London Olympics 2012.

Having bestowed upon with multitudinous tasks in running Sahara’s IPL Pune franchisee – Pune Warriors India, as director Mr. Sarkar lead the IPL team for three consecutive years and played a decisive role in getting the coveted franchisee for Sahara.

Moreover, Mr. Sarkar has been instrumental in developing and executing various well acclaimed international and national events like Sahara India Sports Awards (SISA) – the one-of-its-kind platform to honor the sporting legends. The ‘Sahara India Sports Award’ won Silver Award under the category of ‘Corporate Event’ by the Public Relation Council of India, 2011.

Since the early days to the present day, Sahara’s association with Indian Cricket has traveled a long journey of significant milestones that deserved to be chronicled. The story of the rise of Indian Cricket team as a cricketing super power during the course of Sahara India Pariwar’s long association not only needs to be told but also preserved for the future generation of the cricket lovers.

In the same context, Mr. Sarkar came with a up concept of preparing a Coffee Table Book, ‘The Golden Era’, which is a sumptuous tribute to Cricket and commemorates Sahara’s glorious association with Indian cricket in a form of book that spans from Natwest Trophy win in 2002 which is considered a turning point in Indian cricket after, of course, the 1983 World Cup triumph to India’s recent home series against South Africa. The book has number of sections with brief bios on each of the recent great cricketers. The book was conceptualized, ideated and produced under the guidance of Mr. Abhijit Sarkar.

In addition to this, he was instrumental in bagging the coveted franchisee of Uttar Pradesh in 2012 for the Hockey India League. Spearheading the U.P. Franchisee, he added another feather in his cap by adding another franchisee, Ranchi Rays in 2014, in the Hockey India League, which Sahara co-owns with cricketing legend, M.S. Dhoni.

Besides, he played a major role when Sahara announced its co-ownership in India’s only formula One Team with Dr. Vijay Mallya. Not only India, he expanded the horizon of Sahara’s association with sports beyond a nation, when Sahara bagged the official sponsorship of Bangladesh Cricket team in 2012.

We are thankful to the Honorable Court for giving us permission to raise funds via mortgage and sale of certain properties. Looking at the magnitude of the transactions involved, the Hon’ble Court has allowed us 90 days time to work from the conference room within Tihar Jail court premises, extending the facilities of video conferencing and meeting with various parties.

Apart from the mortgage of the three foreign properties, court has also allowed sale of ten domestic properties and a land parcel of Aamby Valley City. We are in a very advanced stage with many parties and shall execute these deals at the earliest. We have already deposited nearly Rs.4, 000/- crores in the ‘Sahara-SEBI Account’ and we shall be very shortly depositing the remaining amount along with the Bank Guarantee.

Sahara Counsel

Ayush Chaudhary & Abhinav Mani Tripathi

Rupees 40,000 Crores dues issue is wild imagination of media

Sahara’s Rs. 12,000 Crores are already with SEBI

1. Sahara says that report of Due amount of Rs 40,000 Cr is incorrect, since such amount or such observation was never made during the course of hearing either by the Counsel appearing for SEBI or by the Hon’ble Court or any other Counsel. The figure of Rs. 40000 Cr. is imaginary and same amounts to irresponsible reporting of Court proceedings. There is no pleading or any document in the Court record which mentioned the figure of Rs. 40000 Cr. The order dictated in the open Court on 13.03.2015 also does not bear this figure and therefore, these amounts to incorrect reporting of Court proceedings which further dented the image of Mr. Roy and two directors in the public eye.

2.In fact, the Court very fairly stated that amount payable was subject to verification and after verification all excess amount would be refunded Back to Sahara.

3.There is no observation pertaining to the reporting of one month to save group by the Hon’ble Court, same is misconceived.

As a matter of fact, the Hon’ble Court observed during the proceeding to Mr. Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate that the outhouse facility along with secretarial staff etc. can be extended even up to “two months” provided a concrete proposal is put forward as far as the satisfaction of the bail bond of rest of the amount of about 6000 Cr. is concerned. Please note that Sahara’s two companies are asked to provide proposal for complying with the remaining amount out of bail amount of Rs. 5,000 Cr cash and Rs. 5,000 Cr. as bank guarantee and not for any imagery figure of Rs. 40,000 Cr. The period of 2 month was observed by the Hon’ble Court when Mr. Sibal requested for 8 weeks outhouse facility to finalize the transaction to satisfy the bail bond amount of Rs. 10,000 Cr. as ordered by the Hon’ble Court on 26.03.2014.

Therefore, the figure of 4 weeks as reported in the article is incorrect since Mr. Sibal sought 8 weeks’ time and not 4 weeks. Same is clarified to that extent.

4.The news represented that an ultimatum was given whereas the order passed by the Hon’ble Court makes it clear that the Hon’ble Court accepted the request of not appointing a Receiver since Mr. Sibal stated that a serious attempt has been made for finalizing a deal of which the documents will be provided to the Amicus Curiae and the Counsel for SEBI. This acceptance of the request was also noted in the order dated 13.03.2015. As a matter of fact, Mr. Sibal stated that the situation of appointment of a Receiver may not arise if an opportunity is given. There is nothing mentioned in the order passed on 13.03.2015 about any ultimatum and therefore same amounts to incorrect reporting and same is clarified to that extent.

5.The Hon’ble Court extended the facility of communication up to 5 hours a day to Mr. Roy and two directors of Sahara’s two companies, inside the jail premises which was not reported in the article. Further, jail authorities were also directed to facilitate Mr. Roy and two directors with two laptops for functioning which was also not reported in the article.

6.During the hearing, SEBI was directed to file an affidavit clarifying its stand when a letter was indicated to the Hon’ble Court by Mr. Sibal that a communication was issued to HDFC Bank by SEBI on 19.12.2013 that the order dated 21.11.2013 only applies to specific movable and immovable properties in a particular application, therefore, RBI has no cause of action to state that there was a violation by Sahara India Financial Corporation Limited of the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 21.11.2013 and 04.06.2014.

7.Further, Mr. Sibal fairly stated during hearing that about Rs. 12,000 Cr. stands deposited with SEBI as on date out of which barely anything was disbursed by SEBI. The Hon’ble Court also made it clear that it will be open to argue on that issue at a later stage. However, the article in the front page of the newspaper reported that only Rs. 5,120 Cr. was deposited whereas nearly Rs. 12,000 Cr. stands deposited with SEBI as on date. Same is clarified to that extent.

Rupees 40,000 Crores dues issue is wild imagination of media

Sahara’s Rs. 12,000 Crores are already with SEBI

1. Sahara says that report of Due amount of Rs 40,000 Cr is incorrect, since such amount or such observation was never made during the course of hearing either by the Counsel appearing for SEBI or by the Hon’ble Court or any other Counsel. The figure of Rs. 40000 Cr. is imaginary and same amounts to irresponsible reporting of Court proceedings. There is no pleading or any document in the Court record which mentioned the figure of Rs. 40000 Cr. The order dictated in the open Court on 13.03.2015 also does not bear this figure and therefore, these amounts to incorrect reporting of Court proceedings which further dented the image of Mr. Roy and two directors in the public eye.

2.In fact, the Court very fairly stated that amount payable was subject to verification and after verification all excess amount would be refunded Back to Sahara.

3.There is no observation pertaining to the reporting of one month to save group by the Hon’ble Court, same is misconceived.

As a matter of fact, the Hon’ble Court observed during the proceeding to Mr. Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate that the outhouse facility along with secretarial staff etc. can be extended even up to “two months” provided a concrete proposal is put forward as far as the satisfaction of the bail bond of rest of the amount of about 6000 Cr. is concerned. Please note that Sahara’s two companies are asked to provide proposal for complying with the remaining amount out of bail amount of Rs. 5,000 Cr cash and Rs. 5,000 Cr. as bank guarantee and not for any imagery figure of Rs. 40,000 Cr. The period of 2 month was observed by the Hon’ble Court when Mr. Sibal requested for 8 weeks outhouse facility to finalize the transaction to satisfy the bail bond amount of Rs. 10,000 Cr. as ordered by the Hon’ble Court on 26.03.2014.

Therefore, the figure of 4 weeks as reported in the article is incorrect since Mr. Sibal sought 8 weeks’ time and not 4 weeks. Same is clarified to that extent.

4.The news represented that an ultimatum was given whereas the order passed by the Hon’ble Court makes it clear that the Hon’ble Court accepted the request of not appointing a Receiver since Mr. Sibal stated that a serious attempt has been made for finalizing a deal of which the documents will be provided to the Amicus Curiae and the Counsel for SEBI. This acceptance of the request was also noted in the order dated 13.03.2015. As a matter of fact, Mr. Sibal stated that the situation of appointment of a Receiver may not arise if an opportunity is given. There is nothing mentioned in the order passed on 13.03.2015 about any ultimatum and therefore same amounts to incorrect reporting and same is clarified to that extent.

5.The Hon’ble Court extended the facility of communication up to 5 hours a day to Mr. Roy and two directors of Sahara’s two companies, inside the jail premises which was not reported in the article. Further, jail authorities were also directed to facilitate Mr. Roy and two directors with two laptops for functioning which was also not reported in the article.

6.During the hearing, SEBI was directed to file an affidavit clarifying its stand when a letter was indicated to the Hon’ble Court by Mr. Sibal that a communication was issued to HDFC Bank by SEBI on 19.12.2013 that the order dated 21.11.2013 only applies to specific movable and immovable properties in a particular application, therefore, RBI has no cause of action to state that there was a violation by Sahara India Financial Corporation Limited of the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 21.11.2013 and 04.06.2014.

7.Further, Mr. Sibal fairly stated during hearing that about Rs. 12,000 Cr. stands deposited with SEBI as on date out of which barely anything was disbursed by SEBI. The Hon’ble Court also made it clear that it will be open to argue on that issue at a later stage. However, the article in the front page of the newspaper reported that only Rs. 5,120 Cr. was deposited whereas nearly Rs. 12,000 Cr. stands deposited with SEBI as on date. Same is clarified to that extent.

Sahara’s conflict with Sebi over investor repayments has begun to effect salaries of the group’s employees, which are getting overdue because of a major liquidity crunch. Majorly corporate offices of the crisis-hit group are facing salary delays. Even day-to-day petty operating expenses and statutory payments are getting due. A Sahara spokesperson said “We are working to diffuse this crisis, which has also created grave difficulties for our employees. Sahara India is one big Pariwar (family) and all the employees are its members, who are standing together in these difficult times.” The company has a total of 10 lakh employees, which include permanent and part time employees and agents. An exact number of salaries overdue was hard to summate but it has been estimated to go up to “tens of thousands”.

Sahara is also working hard to raise money for getting its chief, Subrata Roy, and two of its officials released from imprisonment from Tihar jail, where they have been for an year now. The spokesperson said that Sahara is facing liquidity crunch for a year now due to restriction and double payment of investor refund. This has led to delays in salaries and other operating obligations and expenses. He added, “We are however releasing the salaries time to time based on the fund flow on a continuous basis. The delayed salaries of junior staff were released just a few days back as extra care has been taken for our junior staff. Soon salaries of other brackets will be released.” He also said that the companies which have their own fund-flow are in a better situation to pay salaries without much delay. These include their luxury hotel Sahara Star in Mumbai, resort town Aamby Valley City and the 500-bed tertiary care Sahara Hospital in Lucknow.

Sahara still maintains that it has repaid more than 95 percent of its investors directly. But the group was asked by the Supreme Court in August 2011 to deposit over Rs 24,000 crore with Sebi for refund to investors. The spokesperson added that “any fund raised by the group, which we are doing, through sales and mortgaging of properties, that money shall go to Sahara-Sebi account and nothing will come to the corporate”. And he said that the payment to Sebi is a double payment for them. Sahara till today has already deposited Rs 11,000 crore (including interest) with Sebi. The spokesperson also said that “Sahara’s two Companies in question collected Rs 25,780 crore through OFCD (Optionally Fully Convertible Debenture) schemes. Of this, Sahara repaid almost 95 per cent (around Rs 23,000 crore) of OFCD liabilities of these two companies by 2012.”

Recent attempts by Sahara to raise funds through a US-based company Mirach Capital failed. The group said it is now in talks with a European bank and a Dutch pension fund and some other entities to raise funds for Subrata Roy’s release.

Sebi has around Rs.11, 500 crores of Sahara‘s money, including bank interest.

By the time Saharasri Subrata Roy shall come out, that is, when full bail amount is paid, Money of Sahara India Pariwar Company lying with Sebi will be Rs.18, 000 crores cash.  Since no bank is ready to give Bank Guarantee to Sahara India Pariwar without 100% cash margin, it is going to be Rs.18, 000 crores of cash with Sebi.

While in the last 26 months, Sebi had to pay only around Rs.2 crores. More importantly, Sebi came out with an All-India Media Advertisement, twice, inviting investors for repayments. But till now, they have received from all over India, a demand of Rs.20 crores only. A question can now arise that whether the investors exist or do not exist; meaning, are these all fictitious accounts?

Only verification can clarify this point, as mandated in Hon’ble Court’s order of 2012. Since then, in almost past 26 months, Sebi has not started verification; the reason best known to them.

About fictitious account, it must be mentioned here another issue pertaining to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) which is as follows:

Between 2008 and 2012, on RBI’s order, Sahara paid back Rs.18, 000 crores under the command of RBI’s two Statutory Auditors and 3 RBI nominated Directors.  The bank account of that amount was controlled by the RBI.  A strict rule was followed that when RBI auditors finally checked the identity of all investors (KYC), only then the next months’ payments were all owed by the RBI and during the process, in 4 years, RBI did not find any fictitious account; not even one.

I am slightly disturbed

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