Trouble for Indian actor in S Africa

Anil Kapoor has accused a South African hotelier of illegally using his credit card to settle huge bills.

india Updated: May 02, 2006 11:07 IST

Bollywood star Anil Kapoor, lauded by President Thabo Mbeki recently as a "global ambassador for South Africa", is at the centre of a row with a local businessman accused of illegally using the actor's credit card to settle huge bills.

But Graham Chennells, an hotelier and former mayor of the small northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Eshowe, has accused Kapoor of reneging on promises to pay outstanding bills for a film project that was subsequently abandoned.

Kapoor accused Chennells and his friend Fergus Upfold of overcharging and settling unauthorised expenses with credit card details supplied by him in good faith.

Upfold, a builder, constructed sets intended to be used for the film Gandhi My Father about which no further details could be obtained from Kapoor's office.

"We went to Eshowe from India as foreigners and completely relied on inputs from Graham and Fergus to plan our shoot there," Kapoor said.

"Thereafter, we used Graham's hotel (The George) and Fergus was contracted to build a set for us. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, we could not shoot in Eshowe for the film."

"Still, we paid all the bills raised by Graham and Fergus to cover hotel use, construction, land use, labour, security, tribal land use, costs of storage and other costs asked for by them."

He said Upfold had been paid more than 300,000 rands ($50,000) and every bill raised by Chennells had been settled.

But Chennells, agreeing that Kapoor had provided him with his credit card details to settle the amount owed to his hotel, said some of this amount and payments made to Upfold from the card were subsequently reversed on Kapoor's instructions.

He said that he had abused Kapoor's trust in debiting the credit card after he had cleared what was due to him, but said he felt responsible for payments due to Upfold.

"I had roped in Fergus in the first place. Fergus paid lots of people out of his own pocket on behalf of the producers," said Chennells.

Kapoor's chief accountant, Jayesh Thakkar, said that besides having settled all accounts, the company had also left behind construction material and other property purchased in South Africa and brought from India in the custody of Upfold, to dispose of as he saw fit.

"All this property is worth a large sum of money which, in fact, he should refund to us if he wishes to deal honestly in this matter," Thakkar said, adding that Kapoor's credit card was used fraudulently.

"This constituted grave credit card fraud and complete misuse of trust reposed in Graham. The credit card company conducted its own investigation and agreed with us on the matter."

Thakkar said Kapoor was unhappy that Chennells and Upfold had created a bad impression about his film company in South Africa, where 'we have many friends and have very fond memories.'

Kapoor is a frequent visitor to South Africa. He described his emotions when meeting with former president Nelson Mandela last year as being akin to the birth of his first child.

In February, Kapoor was a special guest at the opening of parliament in Cape Town, where President Mbeki introduced him as an ambassador for the country in his opening address.

First Published: May 02, 2006 11:07 IST