NMC's BR Shetty stopped at Indian airport on way to UAE

Indian banks initiated travel curbs to recover dues

Dr BR Shetty

Dr BR Shetty

B R Shetty, founder and former chairman of the embattled firms NMC Health and Finablr who was making a surprise attempt to return to the UAE after eight months in India, was stopped by immigration officials at the Bengaluru airport on Saturday morning as he was about to board an Etihad flight.

Shetty and his business empire are embroiled in alleged financial irregularities and fraud involving billions of dollars.

His attempt to fly to Abu Dhabi by Etihad Flight EY217, for what he described as his eventual "return to the UAE as promised", was halted just minutes after he spoke to Khaleej Times from the airport declaring his "complete faith in the justice system of the UAE".

Shetty, who spoke to Khaleej Times even after he was stopped by the immigration officials, said his wife Dr Chandrakumari Shetty, who was to accompany him, was allowed to board the flight which was scheduled to depart at 2.45am on Saturday and arrive at 5.40am in Abu Dhabi.

It is learnt that a consortium of Indian banks, including Bank of Baroda with $250 million in outstanding loans due from Shetty, had initiated travel restrictions on the NMC founder in an attempt to recover the debts. Several other Indian banks, including Federal Bank, have considerable exposure to Shetty-run firms.

An Indian court has already restricted Shetty and his wife from selling or encumbering properties that Bank of Baroda claimed are personally guaranteed as security by the businessman.

The billionaire entrepreneur, who has been away from Abu Dhabi since February, said on Saturday evening that he was trying to get the travel curbs removed and is hopeful of returning to Abu Dhabi within days "to support the UAE authorities and all relevant bodies to correct any injustice done to the companies, their employees, shareholders and other stakeholders and help find solutions to outstanding matters".

A few weeks ago, Shetty had sought an investigation by Indian federal agencies into a series of frauds allegedly committed by former top executives of his companies.

In the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Khaleej Times, he had stated that he was "the victim of a complex fraud" amounting to $6.6 billion involving his former senior executives at his London-listed NMC Health and some bank officials. Finablr, also a London-listed money remittance group, has an overall debt of $1.3 billion, excluding the debt of its Travelex Holdings Ltd unit.

In a statement sent from the airport before his aborted attempt to fly to Abu Dhabi, Shetty said he travelled to India in February "to be with my ailing brother who sadly passed away at the end of March, just as the pandemic spread across the world disrupting international travel.

While I was in India, our investigations started to unravel details of the fraud in NMC Health, Finablr and some private companies owned by my family".

"I said at the time that I intended to return to the UAE and, having filed a criminal complaint against the suspected perpetrators of the fraud in India, I am planning my imminent return to the UAE as promised," he said.

He said reports that he had "fled the country" could not be further from the truth.

Confessing that the "fraud has regrettably created huge challenges" for the companies, he said such shocking developments caused great hardship for his employees, "disruptions to suppliers, and losses to shareholders including myself and creditors".

"I would like to thank the UAE government, creditors, administrators and employees for keeping the operations of the companies alive during this pandemic," Shetty said.

"I have complete faith in the justice system of the UAE and look forward to the perpetrators of the fraud facing justice," he added.

In October, in a 55-page complaint filed with the Indian government departments, Shetty had accused 10 of his former executives, including Prasanth and Promoth Manghat - brothers who were former CEOs of NMC and Finablr - of perpetrating "a large, complex and sophisticated corporate and financial fraud". Shetty stated in the complaint that he was calling for a probe into "the embezzlement, corruption, and laundering of money of his companies on the basis of my personal knowledge and the basis of my examination of documents and records obtained by me".

He also noted that he had filed a complaint dated April 27, 2020 with the Federal Attorney-General of the UAE, seeking a detailed investigation into the affairs of the group companies "in view of the forgery, fraud, and embezzlement" described in his petition.

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