The well known London-based socialite and fashion designer Neishaa Gharat has been placed in police custody in New Delhi over an alleged multi-million pound fraud perpetrated involving her and members of her family.
Mrs Gharat – who runs the ‘House of Gharats’ design consultancy – was arrested by police at Delhi International Airport on Tuesday the 3rd Jan after flying in from London.
The arrest followed a “Look Out Notice” for her and her dentist husband Pretam after claims by a British-Indian businessman Rajesh Tailor that he was swindled out of funds totalling more than £2.3 million over a 7-year period by Pavan Kulavoor, younger brother of Mrs Neishaa Gharat.
In a lawsuit filed in Mumbai, 55-year-old Mr Tailor, implicated fashion designer Mrs Gharat and her husband Pretam – a couple well known within British-Indian social circles who were named as one of the “Top 100 Power Couples” by the community media outlet www.redhotcurry.com.
Sources tell The UKAsian that Mrs Gharat had flown to New Delhi under the misguided belief that the Look Out Notice was only applicable at Mumbai airport and not nationwide in India.
It is also believed that she was travelling to India on urgent business after securing funding from the Arts Council of England for an arts project linking London and Kolkata.
Mrs Gharat has been sent to Delhi’s infamous Tihar jail and is expected to be taken to Mumbai by Maharashtra Police on the 7th Jan where she will make an application for bail.
Her passport has been confiscated while the Look Out Notice remains in place for her husband, according to police officials.
According to police documents obtained by The UKAsian, Ms Gharat faces forgery charges under Section 467 of the Indian Penal Code. If found guilty she could face life imprisonment.
Following the lawsuit filed by Mr Tailor, Ms Gharat’s brother Pavan, 38, was arrested in July and charged with a string of offences, including forgery, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation.
According to Mr Tailor, Kulavoor invited Mr Tailor to invest in Mumbai’s booming property market, in return for exorbitant returns.
Mr Tailor claims that the fraud extends to the UK and the flamboyant Mrs Gharat and her husband Pretam, who were named last year 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 – were named as co-conspirators in the lawsuit.
Mrs Gharat was reportedly a shareholder and director of the companies established by Pavan Kulavoor for the alleged scam.
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.
Among the “investments” promoted to Mr Tailor by Kulavoor and the Gharats – who first moved to London in 2008 and stayed with Mr Tailor and his family in Harrow – 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.
The UKAsian 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 India.
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 a charitable project run by the Gharats – ‘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 Neishaa’s 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 dingy 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 leading to Pavan’s arrest.