With the Modi government coming to power in 2014, the media space has seen a litany of false and malicious stories that have repeatedly targeted leaders of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). From Amit Shah to Ajit Doval. From the Prime Minister himself to Piyush Goyal and Arun Jaitley, none of the leading political figures has been spared. In fact, when the malicious articles against the politicians themselves didn’t stick, the media space started targeting the family members of these political leaders. First, we saw how Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah was targeted with false innuendos. Then, Ajit Doval, the NSA’s son Shaurya Doval was the object of media obsession, and now, Ajit Doval’s second son, Vivek Doval seems to be in the Media’s crosshairs.
5 days ago, on 16th January 2019, the Caravan Magazine published an article targetting Ajit Doval’s son Vivek Doval. The article insinuated wrongdoing on the part of Vivek saying that he heads a hedge fund in Cayman islands even though his father, the NSA, talks about cracking down on tax havens.
Now, Vivek Doval has moved Patiala House Court and filed a criminal defamation case against the author of the article Kushal Shroff, the Editor of Caravan Magazine and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh who did a press conference based on the Caravan article.
The details of the criminal defamation case have been accessed by OpIndia.com. The defamation case says that Vivek Doval is a UK National and an Overseas Citizen of India. Vivek, along with one Mr Amit Sharma, is the Founder- Director of GNY Asia, a hedge fund based out of Cayman Islands. The complaint says that Vivek has been forced to file this criminal defamation suit because the accused persons have deliberately maligned and defamed him, seemingly, to settle scores with his father, Ajit Doval who is the current NSA of India.
The complaint reads:
“Through calculated insinuations and innuendos raised by way of published articles and press conferences, the accused persons have raised unfounded and baseless allegations against the Complainant, and have caused irreparable damage to his reputation and goodwill that he had earned for himself over years of hard work. Moreover, through the said deliberate insinuations, the accused persons have made grave and serious allegations of money laundering against the Fund, which is a legitimate and ethical business venture of the Complainant, not only without any proof therefor, but being completely aware of the falsity thereof”.
It says that the article manages to cast aspersions on the formation of the company and conveniently connects it to demonetisation in the country and based on this fallacious article, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh held a press conference making serious allegations against Vivek.
The complaint says that Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and the Caravan Magazine have insinuated wrongdoing simply on the basis of proximity of the date of hedge fund launch and demonetisation and that a cursory reading of the facts would expose that they have no proof and these allegations are baseless. Congress has insinuated that Vivek was involved in money-laundering and that the fund was specifically launched for that purpose post demonetisation.
It lists the merits of Vivek Doval as under:
- (i) B.Sc Economics (Hons.) from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1999;
- (ii) MSc Economics (Specialisation: International & Monetary Economics) from LSE in 2001;
- (iii) CFA from CFA Institute, Charlottesville, USA in 2006 and was awarded, Charter;
- (iv) CAIA from CAIA Institute, Charlottesville, USA in 2010 and was awarded a Charter;
- (v) Program for Leadership Development, Executive MBA from the Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. In 2014.
The complaint then charts Vivek Doval’s professional work since 2001.
It says that the career path of Vivek illustrates that he never used his family contacts and that, when he decided to launch the fund, people trusted him enough owing to his professional history to work with him.
The complaint then explains the manner in which the Cayman Island hedge fund came into existence. He says the fund was started by him and one Amit Sharma. They have been colleagues since 2004 when the Complainant worked at Bear Stearns and Amit Sharma worked at Deutsche Bank, both working as Semi-Conductor Companies’ analysts in Equity Research.
Thereafter, when Vivek was working at Boyer Allan in 2007, Amit Sharma was the equity salesperson advising the Complainant from Macquaire Securities in London. Given his strong professional background previously at Deutsche Bank, Amit Sharma offered investment advice to Vivek, which helped him in his investment work at Boyer Allan. The same continued when Vivek became the fund manager at British Airways Pension Investment Management Limited in 2012.
In the complaint, Vivek says that by the end of 2015, he had achieved a few years of outperformance in managing a USD 2 billion Asia Pacific fund at British Airways Pension Investment Management Limited and hence decided it was time to get into entrepreneurial ventures.
The complaint then says that the seeds for the Fund had been sown in January 2012 itself when Vivek and Amit Sharma, after Boyer Allen closed, discussed the possibility of getting into business together. It says that they met on a weekly basis and discussed their plans. Vivek Doval and Amit Sharma incorporated a company called Vivam Hold Co Ltd. in October 2013 but it remained a non-starter due to lack of funds and other reasons and was registered to Vivek Doval’s residential address in Hampstead, UK.
It says that by November 2015, they had started looking for prospective investors and even met several service providers including Gordian Capital at Singapore. In April 2016, Amit Sharma quit his job at Macquaire Securities in London and plunged into the process of setting up the fund; whilst Vivek Doval continued his job at British Airways Pension, funding the costs of the fund creation, by his professional earnings. It was then that the process picked up the pace and Mr Mohammed Althaf of the Lulu Group came onboard and the decision to launch the fund was taken.
Upon completion of all documentation, the Fund documents were filed with the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) at the Cayman Islands and the Fund was registered in the Cayman Islands under the Mutual Funds Law (2015 Revision) on 21.11.2016. The Fund was then launched in December 2016. The ideal launch date was fixed in Sept/October 2016 but it took longer to launch the Fund owing to coordination among various players working towards the objective.
Essentially, the timeline has been produced below
Essentially, even if we leave the unofficial time of ideating aside, the fund has been under conceptualisation since 2013, as evidenced by the timeline. It would seem like a stretch for Caravan to connect the incorporation of an elaborate hedge fund to an overnight decision of demonetisation.
Vivek Doval has submitted that his hedge fund has only 5 investors who are all professionals in their own right. The total corpus of the fund is $11 Million which amounts to a paltry Rs. 77 crores. One of the investors owns by 93% (77 crores) of the investments and Vivek submits, that they are friends and colleagues whom he has known for 15 years of his professional life.
Interestingly, Vivek has submitted the details, cheque numbers etc of all his investors and has submitted to the court that all of them are willing to testify about the source of their wealth and the basis of the investment.
Countering the charges of money laundering that were levelled against him by the Caravan Magazine and Jairam Ramesh, Vivek has submitted that no fund was ever raised in India. He has submitted that not more than 15% ($2mm i.e. 14 crores) of the fund has ever been invested in Indian markets. Even this $2m exited India in 2017 due to purely commercial considerations.
It certainly stands to reason that if the requisite funds were not even raised in India, how the charges of money laundering have been levelled against Vivek Doval or his colleagues.
In fact, on the question raised by the Caravan Magazine and Congress about why the hedge fund was in the Cayman Islands which Ajit Doval has himself branded as a tax haven, it is important to note that domicile of the Fund was recommended by professional Advisors. The Cayman Islands is associated with black money in India but it is not the same in developed global financial centres. Cayman islands is a leading domicile for investment funds housing 11,000 hedge funds and 60% of all assets of the global hedge fund industry estimated at $1.1 trillion. It attracts 80% of all new offshore Fund formation and houses more than 75% of the industry. Fund formation is a box standard procedure for all funds and mine was no different.
Ajit Doval had spoken about the black money stashed in the Cayman Islands. But branding legitimately earned money and legitimate business as black money just because it is in the Cayman Islands is faulty logic, and one, motivated by maliciousness.
Vivek Doval has asserted that if the GNY Fund is 77 Crores, of which 14 crores is invested in India than how can 8,300 crores come to India through it. This is an allegation which was specifically made by Jairam Ramesh in his press conference. Vivek also asserts that he is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, audited by PWC, Custody by Wells Fargo and prime brokered by Nomura Securities. All these are gold standards in the world of global finance and have rigorous procedures for taking clients on board.
Regarding the connection between his fund and the business of Shaurya Doval, Vivek Doval says that he had used an analyst and an economist from the company of Shaurya Doval in India for supporting his operations so as to reduce the cost of his business. For use of the office space and the salaries of these professionals, the fund paid a monthly fee of Rs. 2 Lakhs.
It would appear as thought Caravan Magazine had drawn up a complex diagram showing a web of companies simply to obfuscate the fact that the relationship between Vivek Doval’s company and Shaurya Doval’s company was limited to 2 hired professionals and an office space for which Vivek’s fund was paying adequate salaries.
Vivek has asserted that his fund has suffered a loss of 20% over the past 2 years and the NAV of the company stands at $9 million.
Vivek has also said that “in the spirit of 100% transparency and honesty, I am submitting all my pay slips and my tax returns from UK and Singapore for last 18 years (from 2001) where I have been based from the beginning of my professional carrier. Mr Ramesh is free to examine it and I will like him to prove if any undue benefits have been received by me or my family at any point in my life. As a startup guy, I have on the other hand in the last 3 years taken 1/3 of a salary that I was earning as a senior banker in London”.
He also says, “When the funds are registered the Cayman Islands you need a local director. Firms like DMS Services provide these services to all funds. I hired DMS services and Mr Banks is their nominee director on the fund. As a fund manager, I do not choose who they provide as a Director. His CV has been submitted to the court. Linking him and though him my fund to other events and debates without any proof is totally unethical. As a matter of fact defaming him, without evidence, also may make Mr Ramesh liable for an upcoming legal challenge in jurisdictions beyond India”.
With these statements, Vivek Doval seems to have adequately answered the questions and insinuations raised by not only the Caravan Magazine but even Congress’ Jairam Ramesh. What is evident, however, is the fact that Congress in its desperation seems to be targetting the families of political leaders simply because they can’t find anything against their political opponents directly. Going after a family member with conjectures and no proof seems to be a new low for Congress, however unsurprising.