NEW DELHI India's Sahara Group on Monday offered to sell its crown jewel overseas hotels to comply with a court order to repay investors in outlawed bonds, in its latest bid to have its chief released from jail, where he has been held since March 4.
Sahara Chairman Subrata Roy was jailed after failing to appear at a contempt hearing in a long-running legal battle between his group and the Indian capital markets regulator.
The Supreme Court has ordered Sahara, whose assets include the landmark Plaza hotel in New York and Grosvenor House in London, to deposit an initial 100 billion rupees ($1.7 billion) to secure the release of Roy on bail. Sahara's earlier proposals to pay the money in installments were rejected by the court.
On Monday, Sahara's lawyers told the court that the group was willing to sell the three hotels it owns in London and New York to raise funds, but sought Roy's release to facilitate any possible deal.
Roy has not been charged with a crime.
"Please release my client," Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a lawyer representing Sahara in the case, told a two-judge panel.
"We have three valuable hotels in London and New York. We wanted to sell these three hotels to repay the investors' money."
Singhvi also said Sahara was ready to sell part of its large Aamby Valley township project in western India.
Sahara has long argued that it has paid most bond investors and its liability was less than the 51.2 billion rupees it had deposited with the markets regulator, a position the regulator and the court have disputed.
A Sahara spokesman declined further comment on Monday.
Unlisted Sahara, best known as the long-time former main sponsor of India's national cricket team, paid 470 million pounds ($791 million) in 2010 for Grosvenor House, and about $570 million for the Plaza in 2012. It also owns the Dream Hotel in New York.
The court asked Sahara to come up with a specific proposal and said it would hear the case again next week, without immediately giving a specific date.
(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Writing by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Tony Munroe and Louise Heavens)