Dr B.R. Shetty
Dr. B.R. Shetty, founder of NMC Healthcare and UAE Exchange Centre, has again confirmed an “imminent” return to the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dr. B.R. Shetty, founder of NMC Healthcare and UAE Exchange Centre, has again confirmed an “imminent” return to the UAE. if this is the case, this will be a significant breakthrough in the NMC Healthcare corporate scandal that broke late last year and which later showed more than $4 billion in bank loans going missing.

Shetty, who founded NMC in 1975, had been outside of the UAE since February, and in the subsequent months was subject to multiple legal actions initiated by creditor banks. Court orders issued in Dubai and in India have placed strictures on the sale of his assets.

“I had travelled to India in February to be with my ailing brother who passed away at the end of March,” said Shetty in a statement issued to the media. This was “just as the pandemic spread [and] disrupting international travel.

“While I was in India, our investigations started to unravel details of the fraud in NMC Health, Finablr and some private companies owned by my family.

"I said at the time that I intended to return to the UAE and - having filed a criminal complaint against the suspected perpetrators of the fraud in India - I am planning my imminent return to the UAE as promised. I intend to support the UAE authorities and all relevant bodies to correct any injustice done to the companies, their employees, shareholders and other stakeholders and help find solutions to outstanding matters."

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Blames senior executives

All through these months, Shetty had professed no knowledge of how the billions of dollars went missing. He initiated a personal investigation into the company’s affairs and, based on the findings, pointed the finger of accusation against senior officials of the previous management, including the then CEO Prasanth Manghat and his brother Promoth Manghat (who was the CEO of Finablr, the parent company of UAE Exchange Centre).

Both NMC and UAE Exchange were listed on London Stock Exchange, in 2012 and 2019, respectively.

Going full tilt on investigation

Meanwhile, the administrators appointed to oversee NMC have systematically compiled details related to the fraud and how a group of officials connived to bilk billions of company funds.

Accordingly, evidence compiled to date shows:

* Published financial statements were misstated dating back to at least December 31, 2012;

* Money and property were misappropriated from NMC;

* The perpetrators sought to make NMC liable for debt of which it never received the benefit, or sufficient benefit; and

* NMC’s losses are likely to amount to billions of dollars.

In a recent update they gave to bankers and other creditors, the administrators – from the specialist consultancy Alvarez & Marsal – said: “We have set target dates for all the relevant steps to complete the formulation of strategy and preparation of claims arising from the investigation in order to seek redress from those parties connected to the fraud.”

It is now believed that some in the previous management is "helping" with the investigation, according to bankers. However this has not been officially confirmed.

No question of fleeing

In the statement, Shetty made the point that his intent was always to return to the UAE and clear up the mess he finds himself in.

“Reports that I had fled the country couldn’t be further from the truth,” Shetty added. “The fraud has regrettably caused huge challenges for the companies, great hardship for employees, disruption to supplies and losses to shareholders and creditors.

“I would like to thank the UAE Government, creditors, administrators and employees for keeping the operations of the company alive during the pandemic. 

“I have complete faith in the justice system of the UAE and look forward to the perpetrators of the fraud facing justice.”

Shetty is yet to give a clear date on when the “imminent” arrival might be. Informed sources thought it could be as early as this week itself. That, however, remains to be seen.

The other company he founded, Finablr/UAE Exchange Centre, is now looking at a possible sale, with Israel’s Prism Advance Solutions as the suitor.