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Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of BruneiReuters

A spokesman for the Sultan of Brunei has denied media reports that he had made a bid for New York's Plaza Hotel and Dream Hotel, and London's Grosvenor House hotel.

"Neither His Majesty, the Brunei Investment Agency nor the Government of Brunei are involved in any way in the purchase of the Grosvenor House in London or the Plaza and Dream Downtown hotels in New York," a spokesman at public relations firm Bell Pottinger that acts on behalf of the Sultan said in an email sent to IB Times UK.

Earlier, there were reports that Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, has offered $2.2bn for three plush hotels controlled by India's cash-strapped Sahara Group. The Wall Street Journal reported the bid for the first time, citing people familiar with the situation.

The luxury hotels are being sold by Indian tycoon Subrata Roy, who has been jailed for allegedly defrauding investors of billions of dollars. The sale will help fund a $1.65bn bond demanded by India's Supreme Court to allow bail for Roy.

Roy has been in a Delhi jail since 4 March after two group companies - Sahara Housing and Sahara Real Estate - failed to comply with the court's order to refund $3.9bn to 30 million investors.

Roy acquired the New York hotels for close to $800m in 2012 and had purchased the Grosvenor for $725m in 2010. The acquisitions were financed through borrowings from the Bank of China.

An investment arm of the Qatari royal family and Indian pharma billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla are bidding to buy the London property, which is located in the Mayfair area and managed by J W Marriott. But they are not interested in the New York hotels.

The Sultan has recently been severely criticised for the harsh laws in Brunei, including death by stoning for homosexuals and adulterers.

The laws resulted in widespread protests in the US, where gay rights activists called for a boycotting of the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the Sultan and operated by the Dorchester Collection.

The story was updated on 19 August to add the Sultan's denial of initial reports suggesting he was bidding for the properties.