In UK’s biggest private prosecution, a 53-year-old Indian-origin fraudster dubbed “King Con” who posed as a friend of billionaire Hinduja brothers was on Tuesday ordered to pay back a record 38.6 million pounds to his principal victim and British taxpayers by a court in London.
London-based and Kenya-born Ketan Somaia, who had been found guilty of fraud and jailed for eight years last year, was ordered by the Old Bailey court in London to pay up or face a further 16 years in prison.
He was found guilty of nine out of 11 charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception by a jury which noted that Somaia “has to be described as a formidable and serial fraudsman on a truly Olympian scale.”
Somaia treated wealthy investors to luxury trips, generous gifts and big parties before fleecing three of them for 12 million pounds, his trial had been told.
It marked Britain’s biggest-ever private prosecution carried out on behalf of the principal victim, entrepreneur Murli Mirchandani. In another legal first Mirchandani secured 500,000 pounds of public funds to continue his fight to recoup the money he lost in the swindle.
His lawyer Tamlyn Edmonds told the ‘Evening Standard’ that 20.4 million pounds of the order would go to the UK courts and Treasury and 18.2 million pounds to Mirchandani.
“Mirchandani wants his money back and this has been a long process through a private prosecution and confiscation proceedings which have taken its toll in emotional stress. He just wants to put an end to all that,” said Edmonds.
The case also marked the first time a private individual started confiscation proceedings and followed it through without the help of the police asset recovery team. Mirchandani said: ”This is a bittersweet victory, my fight for justice has robbed me of fifteen years of my life.”
“There are no words to describe the betrayal that my family and I have suffered at the hands of a callous man who claimed to be my friend. While today brings some form of closure, it remains to be seen whether Ketan Somaia will comply with the Confiscation Order or face additional years in prison.”
Somaia gave the impression of being a successful businessman, posed as a friend of the billionaire Hinduja brothers and claimed to own assets worth $500 million. The scam took place between 1999 and 2000 when he was president and chief executive of the Dolphin Group of Companies.
He owned an office in Mayfair and a palatial home in an exclusive north London suburb. He is said to have used his purported wealth and status within the Indian community to persuade Mirchandani to make large payments after promising him high returns.