While the arrest of eccentric Sahara Group head Subrata Roy – owner of London’s Grosvenor House Hotel – on charges of defrauding thousands of investors didn’t surprise many in India, it has been received with shock in a highly unlikely place – the tiny Balkan nation of Macedonia.
According a Macedonian journalism organization, authorities in the impoverished country laid out the red carpet for Mr Roy last year after the tycoon promised to save the country’s economy by promising investment worth more than £2 billion.
Xelal Neziri, President of CIJ-SCOOP Macedonia, writes in Friday’s Indian Express that Mr Roy made three trips to the nation of two million in 2013 and rubbed shoulders with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski as well as representatives from the business community.
Mr Roy promised to invest a staggering 2.7 billion Euros in Macedonia over a five year period including in a project that would create a “Las Vegas” for the Baltic and, bizarrely, importing 20,000 cows into the country, says Mr Neziri.
Roy also assured Macedonian officials that the charges of fraud against him and his company were “fictional” adding that the Sahara Group was in rude health and was worth 22 billion Euros.
According to Mr Neziri some Macedonians had even compared the businessman to Mother Teresa who was originally from Macedonia. In fact, among Roy’s plans for Macedonia was building a 32-foot statue of the humanitarian near her birthplace.
He also said experts from India would train local staff in areas such as English language, hospitality, gastronomy and other activities linked to the project.
Mr Roy’s office in the Macedonian capital Skopje has reportedly confirmed that the investment plans are still very much alive despite the tycoon’s arrest last week on contempt of court charges after he failed to appear at a Supreme Court hearing over the return of nearly $3 billion to investors who were defrauded by his company.
Apart from his outrageous promises, Mr Neziri also said that Roy will be remembered by many Macedonians for his opinions on a variety of subjects, including on poverty alleviation: “I believe that many people who live in poverty should resort to sex and increase population density. In my organisation there are many criminals, but you need to leave them to time to change, so you can then turn them into the best citizens.”