Neishaa and Pretam Gharat (Picture courtesy of Facebook).
A British-Asian businessman from London was fleeced out of millions in a scam involving his own relatives, including a UK-based couple well known among British Asian society circles, according to a complaint filed in Mumbai.
Harrow-based business tycoon Rajesh Tailor, 55, alleges that he has been swindled out of funds totalling more than £2.3 million over a 7-year period by Pavan Kulavoor, younger brother of London-based socialite and fashion designer Neishaa Gharat.
Police in Mumbai arrested Kulavoor, 38, last month on a string of charges including forgery, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation.
Pavan Kulavoor remains in Thane jail near Mumbai and has been refused bail.
While police attempt to unravel what Kulavoor – who offered exorbitant returns on Mr Tailor’s investments in Mumbai and elsewhere in India – did with the money, Mr Tailor claims that the fraud extends to the UK and the flamboyant Mrs Gharat and her dentist husband Pretam, who were recently named in the “Top 100 Asian Power Couples” by the internet publisher and campaigner Lopa Patel.
The Gharats – along with Pavan and Neisha’s uncle Mohammed Ibrahim – are named as co-conspirators in the complaint filed by Mr Tailor and seen by the UKAsian.
Mrs Gharat was reportedly a shareholder and director of the companies established by Pavan Kulavoor for the alleged scam.
Police have also issued a “Look Out Notice” for the Gharats on India’s international borders.
Pavan Kulavoor – the main accused.
According to Mr Tailor, he was introduced to Kulavoor and the Gharats in 2006. The Kulavoor’s family are distantly related to Mr Tailor’s family.
At the time, Mrs Gharat was running a marketing and project management firm called Paramount Visions in Mumbai while Pavan was said to be in the “construction business”.
Mr Tailor told the UKAsian: “My mother’s brother’s family, who live in the UK, are very close to Neishaa’s family.
From the outset, we were told that they were a good, trustworthy and hard-working family and when we first met Pavan, Neishaa and her husband Pretam, that was the impression that we had”.
He claims to have visited the office of Pavan’s company Paradigm Group and witnessed a busy work place. Pavan, also, claimed to be the proprietor of two hotels.
Pavan, along with Neishaa, and his mother Devika were also running a charity – Project Crayons, a children’s charity in Mumbai. The charity continues to operate to this day with Neishaa – who describes herself as the charity’s “Catalyst – Global Awareness and Collaborations” – continuing to raise funds for projects in the UK alongside husband Pretam.
Mr Tailor says that the charity merely reinforced their impression of Pavan and the Gharats as upstanding individuals. The families became friends and Pavan is said to have visited England in 2007, staying with Mr Tailor and his family.
It was at this point that Pavan began putting out feelers for Mr Tailor to invest in India.
Businessman Rajesh Tailor.
“I was convinced of his good, honest and hardworking intentions and felt that, having done business around the world but not in my own country of origin, it was the place to invest. If there was any uncertainty regarding how business was conducted in India, this was mitigated by the fact that I had built a good relationship with the Kulavoors and the Gharats”, Mr Tailor says.
“I visited India in 2007 and 2008 and formed genuine relationships with Pavan, Neishaa, Pretam and their families and friends”, he continued.
“They showed us many options to invest in – land, commercial buildings and showed off numerous documents, architectural plans etc. It all seemed thoroughly professional and above board”.
In 2008, Neishaa and Pretam visited London ahead of moving to the UK permanently, staying with the Tailors as Pavan had done. While in London, Neishaa and Pretam, both continued to promote Pavan’s real estate projects in India.
Among the “projects” was a simple “buy and flip” deal on a plot of prime land in Mumbai – the teeming commercial and cultural hub of India and one of the world’s hottest property markets, even during the global economic downturn of 2008.
Pavan is said to have taken Mr Tailor to the property in 2008 on a “scouting mission”, showing paperwork that apparently confirmed that the property belonged to him. Mr Tailor eventually bought the plot of land, transferring the money to Pavan.
In September 2014, when Mr Tailor travelled to Mumbai to claim back some of money or the land, he claims Pavan had paid off people in the vicinity of the plot whilst Mr Tailor took a prospective buyer to see the land with Pavan and promised to pay him some money in December 2014.
In January 2015, after a series of events that set alarm bells ringing, when Mr Tailor travelled to Mumbai to get his money back or claim the land for himself, Pavan had vanished while his family were stonewalling.
As Pavan and Neishaa Gharat continued to promise a haven for investments in India, the money flowed from the Tailors to Pavan’s numerous accounts in India, according to Mr Tailor and corroborrated by transfer documents seen by the UKAsian.
In the meantime the Gharats moved to the UK – with Pretam qualifying to practice in the UK at considerable expense while Neishaa busied herself establishing herself as a fashion designer – setting up the ‘House of Gharats’ – a “design consultancy”.
The couple also became a fixture in the British Asian society scene – attending exclusive events, hobnobbing with prominent figures and getting involved with high profile events.
Among those events was ‘Project 400’, a celebration marking 400 years of Indo-British history organized by the historian and author Dr Kusoom Vadgama.
This outlet reported in 2014 how, after Mrs Gharat was brought in to help organize the event by a member of the organizing committee, she proceeded to attempt to organize her own event named ‘Beyond 400’. After widespread outrage within the community at the time, she eventually abandoned the project.
Mr Tailor says that by that time the Gharats had firmly settled themselves in the UK thanks to his help, including a £25,000 loan to pay the deposit on a new house in northwest London.
Mr Tailor had also offered rent-free space for her to run her various consultancy and design businesses at a building he owned in northwest London.
All the while, Neishaa – who is thought to be exceptionally close to Pavan – continued to “badger” Mr Tailor for more and more funding for her brother’s investments in the UK.
Mr Tailor alleges that there is a correlation between what he calls the Gharats “high profile” life in the UK and their various social and charitable projects and the money that kept disappearing in India.
“The money that I sent to India between 2007 and 2014 never reached any projects but was used for personal financial gain by Pavan, Neishaa and Pretam”, Mr Tailor says. “Pavan bought personal properties and Neishaa and Pretam Gharat used it to fund their lives while Pretam studied further to try and attain the qualifications required to be a dentist in the UK.”
The work of the Gharats charity – Project Crayons – has also been cast into doubt.
Mr Tailor alleges that audit reports handed over to police in Mumbai show that funds transferred by him for investment purposes as well as other “substantial donations” from prominent individuals in the UK and India have not been used for Project Crayon initiatives.
In one example, a charitable hospital to which funds were solicited was found to be non-existent.
Mr Tailor also claims that money was needed in the UK because Neisha Gharat “failed to achieve the recognition and society status she thought she deserved in the UK”.
Her solution was to attempt to “buy influence and status” with what he alleges is his money.
“Neishaa never liked the UK. She felt she could never be recognised as anything here using her false image. In India she finds it a lot easier and therefore she blames her failure on perceived prejudices in the UK as opposed to her lack of ability. Pretam dotes on Neishaa as his entire funding to become a dentist in the UK and living expenses have been provided by Neishaas brother. Neishaa speaks of her portfolio of work, yet we know that none exists”, Mr Tailor says.
“What is unbelievable is that if the money that we sent as investments had been actually invested properly and with honesty, both Pavan and Neishaa would be far wealthier than they are. We met Neishaa’s mother Devika at her home in 2015 to ask about her son’s whereabouts. Her mother, who suffers from asthma, was living in a dinghy little flat on the fourth floor of a building with no lift in quite an unsafe looking area. When asked why her and her brother were not helping their mother, Neishaa said she had enough of her own issues settling in the UK”, Mr Tailor says.
According to Mr Tailor, Pavan stopped returning his calls in December 2014.
Pavan, along with Neisha and Pretam, have now been “ostracized” by their families both in the UK and India.
After two years of attempting to find a solution, and being threatened by Neishaa’s brother in Spring 2016, Mr Tailor went ahead and filed a “First Information Report” in Mumbai last month leading to Pavan’s arrest.
The UKAsian contacted Neishaa Gharat for comment via email and Facebook – she is friends with the UKAsian’s Poonam Joshi.
At first, Mrs Gharat vehemently denied the allegations and refused to comment as the matter was under investigation in India.
When we pursued the matter earlier this week – on the day the “Look Out Notice” was issued against her and her husband – she promptly blocked Ms Joshi on Facebook.