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'Mansoor Ijaz's claims of fortune doubtful'

28 February, 2012

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NEW DELHI: An Indian newspaper has raised questions about the finances of main character in memogate saga, Mansoor Ijaz, suggesting that his claims of relations with some major Indian business families and corporations may be false.

In a report titled 'ISI linked businessman claimed the financial backing of mystery Indian political family' The Hindu newspaper said India's Tata Motors have denied claims made by Mansoor Ijaz that he had their backing for one of his business ventures contrary to what Ijaz had told a bank that raised fraud allegations against him in a New York court.

The report cited documents to show that Mansoor Ijaz had claimed to have the backing of a politically-influential Indian family business to secure over $1.5 million from a San Marino bank. The loan was not paid back and resulted in the bank filing a suit in a New York court alleging fraud on the part of Mansoor Ijaz.

About claims of relations with a politically influential Indian business family, the Indian newspaper reported, "Ijaz made the claims in a March 10, 2008 letter to Banca Sammarinese Di Investimento SPA, as he fought for time to repay loans taken the previous year. The letter is among documents filed before the New York Supreme Court in September 2010, after BSI sued the businessman.

In another report titled, 'Memogate businessman's towering tycoon image rests on weak foundations,' The Hindu traced Mansoor Ijaz's career including his claims of close ties to former US president Bill Clinton and his self-proclaimed behind the scenes role in international affairs.

"Emerging from papers filed before a New York court by San Marino-based bank Banca Sammarinese di Investimento, which was seeking to recover a $1.74 million loan from the businessman, is a rather different picture: Ijaz's fortune, the documents suggest, is fictitious," the paper wrote.

According to the newspaper, "In a 2007 consolidated financial statement, Ijaz told BSI his net worth was around $15 million — at least $11.8 million of that in stock of Crescent Investments and EcoDrive, neither of which are publicly traded, making their worth hard to verify. EcoDrive was set up, according to papers filed by Ijaz with BSI, with an $10,000,000 investment from a mysterious Indian business family with political connections. It never, however, manufactured the efficient power-trains it was set up to produce — and never appears to have done any business."

The Indian paper explained that the rest of Ijaz's fortune consists mainly of a New York apartment then valued at $5.9 million, which public records show has since come down to $4.4 million. "His liabilities, made up of two mortgages and the BSI loan, come to over $4 million — which means Ijaz's net worth is in fact fragile."

According to the newspaper, several people in President Asif Ali Zardari's inner circle accused Mansoor Ijaz of fabricating the memo episode but could not explain why an apparently successful businessman might have worked for secret agencies in fabricating accusations against Pakistan's government leaders." The BSI revelations might just provide an answer," says the report, which also quotes Mansoor Ijaz as accusing the Pakistani government of using the BSI issue to discredit him.

The Hindu report gives details of Mansoor Ijaz's controversy with BSI Bank.

"In his letter to BSI, Ijaz promised he had secured $50 million from a 'large Indian family that has real estate investments around the world, including over 40 apartment units in Las Vegas' newest condominium towers [as well as] Dubai and India.' 'The head of the family,' he went on, 'is an important political personality from the State, where the family resides,'" the report says.

'The investor's funds," Ijaz asserted, "are resident in Switzerland, and we are presently going through the necessary due diligence work.' In addition, he said, "the same investor, due to its close ties with Tata Motors, has chosen to invest $10,000,000 in our planned launch of a company to develop the world's most energy-efficient powertrains."

"The Indian family," Ijaz told The Hindu, "was one of the big ones — I'm not at liberty to say." He however said the family had only planned an investment in "in my Aquarius Towers project for Las Vegas, not the powertrain deal —that was all American investors in which I invested my share using my pledged collateral to borrow the funds from BSI."

According to The Hindu, Ijaz, in his letter, claims contracts had been signed for both deals in February 2008. He told the bank he would provide further details after a visit to India scheduled for late March that year. "Much hard work," he wrote in a message to BSI's directors citing temporary business reverses for his default, "has gone into correcting the situation, above all to protect my political reputation and future role in American politics."

But the Indian newspaper found that like in many other matters, Mansoor Ijaz's claims turned out to be without basis. "Tata Motors denies that it has had any dealings with Ijaz or EcoDrive, and there is no public-domain information available to suggest the businessman ever in fact began work on powertrains," it reported.

The Hindu also said that inquiries with immigration authorities in Mumbai threw up no evidence that Ijaz had visited India during that time, creating doubts about Ijaz's truthfulness.

The report said that in filings before a New York court, BSI claimed Ijaz used funds it had advanced to his Ijaz Group and Aquarius companies "for his personal needs, including payment of mortgages and brokerage account fees, and used said lines of credit after his personal line of credit had reached its limit." In addition, it alleged, "Aquarius never entered into any contracts, nor did it have any employees... [or] file tax returns."

According to the report in The Hindu, in a September 25, 2010 judgement, judge Charles Ramos ruled in favour of BSI, and Ijaz agreed to settle by repaying the bank $1.74 million. Peter Kurchen, the bank's attorney, says he is yet to do so. "Given that he has not voluntarily satisfied the judgment in the past two years we are forced to commence enforcement action," he said.

The Indian paper said that "Ijaz for long used his image as a politically well-connected tycoon to cultivate ties with intelligence services and governments. In 2000, for example, Ijaz approached the former Research and Analysis Wing chief CD Sahay, claiming to have the blessings of the White House for a secret India-Pakistan peace deal. RAW courted the businessman briefly, flying him to Srinagar to meet one-on-one with then-chief minister Farooq Abdullah, only to later discover his claims were baseless."

According to The Hindu's investigative report Mansoor Ijaz's "initiative in Sudan also ended in controversy. Ijaz claimed the Sudanese government of President Omar Bashir offered the Clinton administration several opportunities to arrest bin Laden. These opportunities, he said, were welcomed by secretary of state Madeleine Albright, but spurned by President Clinton's special adviser on Africa, Susan Rice, counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. The 9/11 commission, though, held that there was no reliable evidence to support the 'claim that Sudan offered to expel bin Laden to the United States.' Ijaz was then to controversially claim that he had evidence Iraq's former ruler, Saddam Hussain, had manufactured weapons of mass destruction. In 2006, he asserted Iran already had a nuclear bomb."


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