India court gives jailed tycoon last chance to raise S$2.2 billion

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's top court Monday gave jailed tycoon Subrata Roy a last chance to raise the US$1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) he needs to secure bail, including by selling three of his luxury hotels.

The supreme court gave the flamboyant businessman another three months to come up with a final proposal to raise the bail money, warning that failure would result in the appointment of a receiver.

"We give you a last opportunity to dispose of properties and raise money for bail," said Justice T. S. Thakur. "In case you are unable to do this, we will be left with no option but to appoint a receiver to sell Sahara properties," he said.

Roy's Sahara media-to-finance empire has made several failed attempts to come up with the bail money since he was jailed a year ago.

Roy was taken into custody after he failed to comply with a court order to repay 200 billion rupees (S$4.4 billion) to millions of small savers through a bond scheme that regulators had declared illegal.

Sahara has always insisted it was only helping poor and mainly rural investors, while Roy says he has been a victim of "character assassination".

The court has allowed Roy to use a conference room at New Delhi's Tihar Jail for negotiations on the sale of his properties, which include New York's Plaza Hotel and the Dream Downtown as well London's Grosvenor House.

But his lawyers have previously told the court that proceedings in those sales have been delayed.

Sahara has reportedly defaulted on loan agreements with the Bank of China that were secured against the three hotels.

The Supreme Court jailed Roy, famed for his rags-to-riches story and mansion modelled on the US White House, after he missed a court appearance in a long-running row with the security regulators.