J&K’s Film City Investor Named in a Massive Bank Fraud Case

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Soon after the abrogation of Article 370, the investor had announced his ambitious plans to open a film city spread over 12 square kilometres in J&K, apart from turning around the tourism, health, and agriculture sector.

Mrinal Pathak

New Delhi: A prominent UAE-based Indian business tycoon, who last summer pledged a billion dollar investment in the newly created union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, is on the radar of probe agencies for fraud cases.

Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, once a typical billionaire with a taste for the high-life, has left UAE as legal problems continue to mount in his companies NMC Health and UAE Exchange.

Shetty is reportedly under radar of various Indian probe agencies for his alleged involvement in ‘one of the biggest’ bank fraud cases of recent times.

The Indian agencies are looking into BR Shetty’s exposure to Indian banks after a UAE-based bank alleged a fraud committed by his business house.

Shetty operates healthcare facilities in India under the name of the BR Life brand.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) has filed a criminal complaint, alleging ‘fraud and forgery‘ against six people, including founder BR Shetty, and former CEO Prasnath Manghat, linked to the embattled group.

ADCB has the largest exposure to NMC (New Medical Centre) Healthcare, a business group listed in the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

As the leading health Group of UAE, Shetty’s NMC, founded in 1970s, has presence in 19 countries.

But the group, which was delivering high hopes of reshaping the fractured healthcare system of J&K, is now facing a risk of insolvency.

NMC is subjected to legal scrutiny after it was found that the hospital operator had $6.6 billion in bank debt and was in no position to pay it off.

In its complaint, ADCB said the fraud was committed as a result of alleged ‘window dressing’ between the accused to fabricate and use forged financial statements.

ADCB has the highest exposure of 3.6 billion dirhams, whereas, the total exposure of UAE banks if combined, stands at more than 10 billion dirhams.

J&K’s Pipe Dream

An old Jan Sangh hand, Shetty had hogged headlines for his interaction with Prime Minister Modi during the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Global Business Summit held on August 24, 2019 — barely 20 days after New Delhi abrogated special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Shetty while addressing PM Modi in his broken English and overzealous tone promised to bring investments worth billion dollars to J&K.

Apart from turning around the tourism, health, and agriculture sector, Shetty had announced his ambitious plans to open a film city in J&K that would be spread over 12 square kilometres.

“It [J&K] is a very scenic place, and I’m going to have a film city there, so that people can come and shoot films there, and for tourism,” he said in an interview with Arabian Business.

“I’ve already got land offers from Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, about 3,000 acres.”

But as his investment agenda looks bleak to many now, Shetty has not been in UAE for over a month, from where he promised to pour in billions of dollars into J&K.

He has flown to India amid legal troubles in his UAE-based companies.

The other arm of Shetty’s business, UAE Exchange Centre is also facing an investigation by the UAE Central Bank for alleged fraud.

During the Investor Meet last summer, Shetty had promised to set up super-specialty hospitals across India including J&K and PM Modi’s Lok Sabha segment of Varanasi.

While responding to Shetty during the summit, PM Modi had said, “Dr. Shetty ke har shabd par hamko bharosa hai (We have full faith in each and every word Dr. Shetty is saying).”

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