Subrata Roy: India detains Sahara group chief

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Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Calcutta on November 29, 2013Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Subrata Roy, with his rags-to-riches life story, is a household name in India

One of India's most flamboyant tycoons, Subrata Roy, has been taken into police custody after surrendering himself for arrest in a fraud case.

The Supreme Court ordered the arrest of the Sahara group chief when he failed to appear before judges on Wednesday.

Two Sahara firms are accused of raising 240bn rupees ($3.9bn; £2.3bn) through illegal bonds.

Market regulators say Mr Roy failed to refund money to millions of investors despite a court order.

He was remanded to police custody until 4 March when it is expected the Supreme Court will hear the case.

Indian media reports say he has requested to be kept under house arrest.

'Law-abiding citizen'

Earlier on Friday, Mr Roy issued a statement denying he was trying to avoid arrest, after police in Lucknow said they had raided his house on Thursday but failed to find him.

Mr Roy said he was in Lucknow but had left his home to consult doctors about his mother's health.

On Wednesday, judges ordered the businessman's arrest after his lawyer said the Sahara chief had been unable to appear in court because his 92-year-old mother was unwell.

The case stretches back to August 2012, when the court ordered the two Sahara firms implicated to refund money to 22 million small investors within 90 days and with 15% interest.

In December 2012, the court gave the firms more time to repay.

In February last year, market regulators froze the firms' bank accounts saying they had failed to refund the money.

But Sahara disputes the amount it should pay back, saying its liability should be no more than the 51.2bn rupees it has already paid back.

Mr Roy is a household name in India.

His group, worth $11bn, has businesses ranging from finance, housing, manufacturing, aviation and the media.

It also has interests overseas - it owns New York's landmark Plaza Hotel and London's iconic Grosvenor House.

Sahara also sponsors the Indian hockey team and owns a stake in Formula One racing team, Force India.

With more than 1.1 million workers, the group is India's biggest private sector employer.