Indian business tycoon guilty of swindling nearly $20 mn

Written by PTI | London | Updated: Jun 15 2014, 21:22pm hrs
FraudKetan Somaia was convicted on Friday by the Old Bailey Court for obtaining money by deception. (Reuters)
An Indian-origin business tycoon dubbed 'King Con' has been found guilty by a British court of fleecing wealthy investors of nearly USD 20 million.

Ketan Somaia, 52, a former Kenya resident who moved to the UK, was convicted on Friday by the Old Bailey Court of nine counts of obtaining money by deception, totaling USD 19.5 million, from two separate victims and acquitted of two counts of obtaining money by deception to the tune of USD 3.5 million.

Somaia presided over the collapse of an African bank and is best known for his involvement in the Goldenberg affair, a corruption scandal that helped wreck Kenya's economy.

"Mr Ketan Somaia was what is sometimes called a confidence trickster, but on a grand scale," William Boyce for the prosecution was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

His lavish lifestyle was being paid for by people whose money was "taken and not given back", in a "systematic series of frauds," Boyce said.

In a single year, he was accused of extracting a total of of USD 23 million from an entrepreneur, Murli Mirchandani, after promising him stakes in his ventures.

Aside from some money for interest, Boyce claimed: "Not a penny of the USD 23 million capital advanced to Mr Somaia has ever been repaid."

Mirchandani, who made his fortune in food and chemicals, pursued Somaia for more than a decade and was the primary complainant in the successful Old Bailey trial.

The jury found that Somaia had also defrauded a London businessman, Dilip Shah, of USD 339,310.

Before meeting Mirchandani, Somaia was said to have fleeced a third man, Surajit Sen, for USD 2 million in 1997.

Somaia was said to have lured his victims by claiming that he had a personal fortune of USD 100 million and that his companies were worth USD 500 million, the report in the British daily said.

He laid on all-expenses-paid trips to Africa and Dubai, where the visitors, accompanied by hired musicians, traveled in chauffeur-driven cars and on a private jet and stayed at luxury hotels, it said.

Concluding the trial, Judge Richard Hone said: "This case has been exceptional for a number of reasons the sums involved, the extraordinary lifestyles, the famous names, the world of international businessmen and the outpouring of USD 23 million simply relying on the concept of 'My word is my bond'."

Somaia is due to be sentenced this month after a medical report.