The defamation suit filed by Vivek Doval, son of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, against Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, The Caravan magazine and journalist Kaushal Shroff was heard today at the Patiala House Court in Delhi. The matter was heard by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.
Today Vivek Doval presented his arguments after he was administered oath by the court. He began by explaining his current citizenship status, educational qualifications, and his professional standing. He said, “I am a UK citizen and I am a very proud overseas citizen of India”. He had filed the complaint to redress the series of allegations, innuendoes and insinuations which have been used to destroy his family’s hard-earned reputation.
Vivek Doval said that he first heard about the story in the Caravan magazine from his brother who had called him on January 16th. “I was shocked how random facts, incorrect facts, insinuations, innuendoes had been pieced together to give an exceptionally misleading picture about myself and my family”, he said. He also talked about Jairam Ramesh who made similar allegations and that the Indian National Congress website carried the interview and its transcript.
My life and career have been built on years of hard work.. have only relied on my own abilities to reach wherever I have. What is critical to me as a fund manager is my reputation and these utterances would create a permanent mark on my character as an investment professional.
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 27, 2019
Vivek Doval spoke about when his father had confronted him about the article. “My father (Ajit Doval) is my hero…when I came back to Delhi, I was confronted by my father on the veracity of these utterances. I broke down. I felt helpless”, he said.
The article carried a photograph of him, his brother Shaurya Doval and his father with the title “The D Companies”. The D Company was a reference to Dawood Ibrahim and his gang. The article accused Vivek Doval of having prior knowledge of demonetisation and had said that he registered the hedge fund 13 days after demonetisation.
The article insinuates that Doval and his family were involved in illegal activities such as money laundering, round-tripping of capital, violating financial regulation and connections to foreign royal families. “The article also suggests that Doval and family are involved in untaxed black money and international terrorism”, Doval added.
“It puts a blot on my career and professional standing for years to come. Very sadly, these inferences suggest that someone like my father who has spent his entire life fighting enemies of this country allowed his son to pursue such illegal activities”, said Doval.
Doval said that the Congress press conference was extremely defamatory and that the words of Jairam Ramesh gave more sanctity to The Caravan article. Jairam Ramesh had also accused both Vivek Doval and his brother of illegal activities.
The conference had hinted that GNY Asia Fund was responsible for the massive increase in investment in India from Cayman Islands in the financial year 2017-18. It also suggested that this entire amount of Rs 8,300 crore came through GNY Asia.
Vivek Doval said, “In response to a question at the Conference, Jairam Ramesh answered that what he had presented in the press conference were the facts. In doing so, he removed the distinction between fact, opinion, allegation and fiction”.
These allegations were not just limited to digital, social media. I received calls from friends, colleagues nationally and internationally. The level of anxiety with our investor on the Fund was such that my partner told me that it may be appropriate for me to step down, Doval
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 27, 2019
Talking about the impact these allegations have made to his career he said, “Integrity of a Fund Manager has to be spotless and as a result of that we have to give regulatory examinations every year of our career. The Caravan article and Press Conference have seriously impacted my career and has perhaps caused years of hard work to become fruitless”.
Vivek Doval then went on to give further details about his professional career and how he had set up the fund at Cayman Islands which has been explained in detail in his complaint. “The Fund was created several weeks later than what we had anticipated. The creation of a fund is a long process involving lawyers, service providers, regulators, investors”, said Doval.
Vivek Doval said, “The Fund was registered in Cayman Islands on November 21, 2016. A vast number of Hedge Funds (60%) in the world are registered in Cayman Islands. It is a very reputable geography for a Hedge Fund. The options that we were considering for registration were Singapore and Cayman Islands. But we thought that Singapore would be more expensive”.
He had a total of seven investors, Vivek Doval (USD 300,000), Amit Sharma (USD 200,000), Mohd Altaf and family (USD 10.1 million), Nick Allan (USD 250,000), Neeraj Kumar (approx USD 150,000) and Syed Ali Abbas (USD 100,000).
Doval continued, “We had a corpus of 11.1 million USD at inception which is all the monies that the Fund has ever received to-date. The approximate corpus of the Funds currently is USD 8 million having been impacted by the US-China trade war in 2018”.
He said that fund was mandated to invest in China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. The fund was never launched in India and they had obtained a provisional Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) licence from SEBI via Edelweiss Securities. “Given that it was an FPI licence, it was never planned and the Fund was never marketed to investors in India”, he said.
Further addressing allegations of investment in India he said, “FPI is investment in financial securities as opposed to FDI which is investment in land, factories and infrastructure”.
“The reason why we used Edelweiss Securities is because our prime broker Namoora Securities did not provide custodian services in India. Given Edelweiss Securities was known to me from British Airways days, they were selected as the custodian service provider for GNY Asia Fund in India”, he said. He further added, “After exiting the India market in August 2017, the Fund never invested in India on account of the fact that the Fund could not broad base its investors”.
Clarifying the suspicion on his business dealings with his brother Shaurya Doval he said, “When I started the Fund, I was running on a shoestring budget and would struggle to hire resources in Singapore. So the Fund engaged in a facilities management program with Shaurya Doval’s company Zeus Strategic by which two resources were subcontracted to the GNY Asia Fund along with office space. Besides this arrangement, there is no other business arrangement between Shaurya and myself”.
Vivek Doval had also clarified that his father (Ajit Doval) has no relationship with any of the companies and as far as he knows was never involved in any commercial activity. He also added that the GNY capital in London had 8-10 lakh INR as opposed to the 8,300 crore INR alleged in the press conference.
He finished by explaining the impact that these allegations have made on him, “GNY Asia Fund has had a very challenging time post these allegations. We are seeing uneasiness of existing investors and service providers who themselves think that they have been defamed. Also, our prospective investors have backed off and we are in the process of winding down the Fund”.
My reputation has been lowered amongst friends and family..I am a private person whose existence is dominated by his profession. This has also lowered the reputation of the family particularly of my brother and father, Doval
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 27, 2019
The court has been adjourned till July 10 in which Vivek Doval would be cross-examined.
Vivek Doval had filed the criminal defamation after the Caravan Magazine, a left-wing portal had published a report claiming that he had started a hedge fund in Cayman Islands days before demonetisation to launder money. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also did a press conference based on the Caravan article accusing him of tax evasion.