Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

NMC Health founder BR Shetty says he's a victim of fraud and vows to clear his name

Executive blamed actions on 'a small group of current and former executives' at a number of his companies

The order freezing Mr Shetty's assets limits him to a maximum of $7,000 a week to spend on ordinary living expenses and legal representation Ryan Carter / The National 
The order freezing Mr Shetty's assets limits him to a maximum of $7,000 a week to spend on ordinary living expenses and legal representation Ryan Carter / The National 

Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, the founder of NMC Health and payments firm Finablr, said preliminary investigations carried out by his advisers "indicate that serious fraud and wrongdoing appears to have taken place at NMC, Finablr, as well as within some of my private companies, and against me personally".

In a statement, Mr Shetty blamed the fraud on "a small group of current and former executives at these companies". He said bank accounts were created in his name and transactions were made without his knowledge.

Mr Shetty also said loans, cheques and bank transfers were also fraudulently guaranteed in his name using his "forged signature" and that he "neither authorised, consented to, or had any knowledge of".

Mr Shetty began NMC from a single clinic in Abu Dhabi in 1975 and built it into the UAE's biggest private healthcare provider, with 2,000 doctors and almost 20,000 other staff operating clinics, hospitals and pharmacies in 19 countries. He also built Finablr as a foreign exchange and payments group and floated both on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

"To see everything that my family and I have strived to build over the past 45 years eroded over the course of a few short months, and mainly due to the misconduct and wrongdoing of people I put so much trust in, saddens me beyond words," Mr Shetty said.

Problems with his empire first emerged in December when activist investor Muddy Waters, a short seller, issued a report saying NMC Health had inflated its cash balances, overpaid for its assets and understated its debt.

This sparked an independent investigation which found that debts at NMC Health were materially higher, at $6.6bn, than the $2.1bn previously stated in its accounts. That led its biggest lender, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, to petition for administrators to be appointed earlier this month. Banks in the UAE have declared exposure of at least Dh8bn to NMC Health, and of more than Dh10bn to his broader empire, including Finablr and currency exchange group UAE Exchange.

In his statement, Mr Shetty said he had not previously spoken "out of respect for due process and to allow the various UK and UAE authorities and investigations, including my own, to quickly expedite their mandates".

Mr Shetty returned to his native India in February but told The National earlier this month that he plans to return to the UAE to set the record straight.

He said the restraint he had shown so far "has come at great personal cost to me both reputationally and materially".

"However, given my own legal and forensic investigations are now starting to produce some initial findings, and in consideration of some misleading and inaccurate allegations and claims made against me, now is the right time to do so."

Alongside the unauthorised bank accounts and payments, Mr Shetty said that entire companies had been set up "in my name that I neither authorised, consented to, or had any knowledge of".

He also said that powers of attorney to act on his behalf had been created without his knowledge.

Mr Shetty said he was provided with "false and misleading financial statements and information regarding the performance of some of my private companies and investments by members of my own management team".

"My advisers and I have therefore shared information and evidence from our findings with all relevant boards, as well as with relevant law enforcement and regulatory authorities," he added.

Mr Shetty said he remains "fully committed to working with both companies and all relevant authorities in the UAE and UK to ensure that all stakeholders are provided with as full and comprehensive an understanding of the entire situation".

My greatest regret is for the thousands of hardworking employees in the companies we established who are now enduring extreme uncertainty and hardship

BR Shetty, founder, NMC Health

A spokesman for the joint administrators of NMC Health told The National it would review the statement "as part of our ongoing investigation into the affairs of NMC Health and look forward Dr Shetty sharing the findings of his investigation with us". ADCB declined to comment.

Joint administrators of NMC Health this week said they intend to delist the company's shares to save costs and simplify the administration process of a business whose hospitals and clinics remain operational during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Finablr, which has been experiencing problems of its own since its Travelex subsidiary reported a suspected cybersecurity hack on New Year's Eve, continues to be LSE listed, but its shares have been suspended since last month, when the company reported liquidity issues and said it was looking into a potential insolvency process.

It has subsequently appointed investment bank Houlihan Lokey to advise on strategic options that could include a restructuring of its debt, a sale of some of its assets or a capital raise.

"My greatest regret is for the thousands of hardworking employees in the companies we established who are now enduring extreme uncertainty and hardship, especially during the current public health crisis," Mr Shetty said.

"It also pains me to see the damage caused to my business partners, shareholders and other stakeholders who we have worked with for so long. I intend to work tirelessly to clear my name and assist any authorities in getting to the truth".

A look back at our interview with BR Shetty in July 2019

Updated: April 30, 2020 12:43 PM

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