An Indian-origin businessman who boasted of his close friendship with the UK richest billionaires Hinduja brothers is facing years behind bars for fleecing wealthy investors of £12million, The Daily Mail reported.
Ketan Somaia, dubbed ‘King Con’, from Bayswater in London, wooed his victims with luxury trips on private Learjets, Champagne parties, extravagant dinners and expenses paid trips to Dubai, Kenya and South Africa. The 52-year-old owned an office in Mayfair and a palatial home in the exclusive north London suburb of Hadley Wood – favoured by Arsenal and Spurs footballers – and insisted on serving his guests only cases of vintage Dom Perignon. In reality he was shamelessly exploiting his unwitting victims to get his hands on their millions.
Somaia, a former business associate of Tory leader Cecil Parkinson, managed to extract a total of £13.5million from entrepreneur Murli Mirchandani between June 1999 and May 2000 after promising high returns.
Mr Mirchandani – who himself claims to be worth more than £70million – pursued Somaia in the civil court before finally launching a private prosecution. But even after his arrest Somaia continued to live a luxurious lifestyle that ‘most can only dream of’, dining at the five-star Dorchester hotel in Mayfair and the exclusive East India Men’s Club, and sending his teenage daughter to a finishing school in Switzerland.
Somaia, who made his fortune in hotels, banking and media, was convicted of nine counts of obtaining money by deception totalling nearly £11.7million after a trial at the Old Bailey. He was acquitted of two counts of obtaining money by deception from Mr Mirchandani amounting to £2.06million.
Somaia will be sentenced later this month once a report on his medical condition is prepared.
Judge Richard Hone QC told the jurors they would be exempt from jury service for 15 years as a reward for serving on the 10 week-case – which was originally estimated to take a month.
He 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 23 million dollars simply relying on the concept of “My word is my bond”.’
Somaia was able to pull off the scams because his victims accepted his personal guarantees at face value. e gave the impression of being a successful businessman with his smooth, charming, impressive and persuasive exterior.
The tycoon also swindled several other victims with ‘gobbledygook’ contracts and ‘smoke and mirrors’. Surajit Sen handed him around £1.18million in 1997. And after failing to get any more money out of Mr Mirchandani, Somaia conned Dilip Shah, the husband of one of his distant relatives, out of £120,000. He also owed a total of £8.84million to another businessman, referred to as ‘Mr Bose’, by April 2001. Somaia made the first repayment of £1.18million but failed to pay any more of the money back.
He signed a contract stating he would transfer 30 per cent of DHL’s share capital over to Mr Bose. But all he gave his creditor was a certificate which was only worth the paper it was printed on. He claimed he had repaid Mr Bose around £2.95million but later admitted that this was mostly from a £2.06million mansion in Dubai which he had signed over as security for the loan. Somaia bragged that he was a friend of the billionaire Hinduja brothers and owned assets worth £294million in banking and hotels. Mr Mirchandani heard of his business prowess at a cocktail party and was quickly bewitched by Somaia’s offer of a lucrative partnership.
Somaia treated him to dinners at Annabel’s nightclub in London and all expenses paid trips to South Africa and Dubai and flaunted his lavish home in Hadley Wood, north London. His scam began with a plea for a short term loan of $865,000 to buy shares in Delphis Bank Mauritius, guaranteeing repayment in four months. Two days later he convinced Mr Mirchandani to hand over £4.42million to buy a ten per cent stake in the bank.