- Harassed and Hounded Nazir Mussa appeals to PM, Maha CM to ensure his case is not repeated
At a time when the Union and various State governments are aggressively pushing the ‘Make in India’ drive, misuse of legal system and police machinery can severely impact the ambitious initiative, said UK-based businessman Nazir Mussa, who was jailed on the basis of, what he called, a fictitious case.
“I have been jailed for 28 days at Arthur Road prison in Mumbai under horrible conditions and without any charge on the basis of a fictitious case filed by influential Indian businessman Shobit Rajan who apparently had an axe to grind with my nephew Arnool Jamal in connection with a dispute over a 13-acre prime commercial plot worth thousands of crores of rupees,” said Mussa.
“I appeal to honourable Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and honourable Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr Devendra Fadnavis to ensure that such cases are not repeated as it will shake the global businessmen’s confidence in Indian legal system,” he said in a statement from London.
Mussa now stands vindicated as Justices Jagdish Singh Khehar and C Nagappan of Supreme Court heard the petition ruled: “No ground for interference is made out in exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.”
“The special leave petition is accordingly dismissed. As a sequel to the above, pending interlocutory applications also stand disposed of,” the order said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and along with advocates Mahesh Agrawal appeared for Rajan, while Senior counsel Aryama Sundaram, Dr. A M Singhvi, Sajid Mohamed along with Aman Vachher appeared for Mussa.
On the basis of a complaint filed by Indian businessman Shobhit Rajan, Mumbai police had picked up Mussa from the CCI while he was playing cards with his friends on a late evening in June 2014 and detained him in jail without charge for 28 days.
The Bombay High Court had subsequently quashed the criminal case proceedings against Mussa and freed him on bail which Rajan challenged through his SLP.
My only fault appeared to be that Jamal is my nephew and I issued a bonafide net worth certificate to him to avail a bank loan. I am a UK certified CA and my stand has been vindicated by the Indian courts for which I am eternally grateful,” said Mussa.
“This is a clearcut case of misusing the police machinery to suit a businessman’s vested interest which we have told the courts,” he said.
Mussa had argued before the High Court that Rajan filed the case “with vengeance against him apparently to hide his own acts of misdeeds and fraud to usurp control of the prime property.” Jamal pointed out and filed cases with Saki Naka police in Mumbai.
The case arises out of a long standing corporate war between Jamal, a Canadian businessman based out of Kenya, and Rajan over the prime land earlier owned by Parke Davis on which a massive commercial property development called Logitech Park has been built.
Realty analysts say the property is valued at over Rs 3,500 crores.
Jamal, through his fully owned Akkadian Housing Infrastructural Pvt. Ltd, had entered into a 50:50 JV partnership with Rajan to a float a company called Pantheon Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd for acquiring and developing the property back in 1999.
Jamal alleged that Rajan, after the acquisition of the land by the JV, coaxed him to dilute his 50% share holding in Pantheon to 28.33% in favour the latter’s own people on the pretext of bringing in expertise to develop the property.
Trouble started after the property was developed which housing many IT companies and MNCs.
In a retaliatory move, Rajan filed a criminal complaint with a metropolitan court alleging that Mussa issued a false certificate showing Jamal’s net worth to be USD 42.8444 million in 2001 to enable him to borrow from ICICI Bank to complete the transaction of the land purchase.
The magistrate directed the Mumbai police to investigate the complaint in August 2013. The case was later transferred to the Economic Offenses Wing of the Mumbai police which arrested Mussa in June 2014.
Mussa subsequently applied to the High Court with a criminal writ petition contesting the proceedings and the division bench of the HC set aside and quashed the FIR. Shobhit Rajan subsequently challenged the order before the Supreme Court, which was dismissed.
Earlier, the Bombay High Court had not found any substance in the allegations against Mussa and ordered that he be freed on bail and permitted him to travel aboard. The court upheld Mussa’s contention that the net worth certificate issued by him was genuine and that he is a professional CA.
Interestingly, the High Court division bench also observed, none of the banks involved in the financing of the project raised any complaint against the certificate’s veracity.
Following the rejection of the case sought to be built against Mussa, Rajan – and not the Mumbai police – filed an SLP at the apex court which dismissed the petition.
Pantheon, now controlled by Rajan, unceremoniously threw off Jamal from the Board in 2004.
Challenging this, Jamal moved the Company Law Board seeking redress against Rajan and the Pantheon Board’s actions. The CLB initially expressed surprise at the way Jamal was treated but subsequently directed him to exit the company with the compensation of 6.6% of the original land cost, and not of the value of his shares.
Jamal challenged this in the Bombay High Court but lost the case.
Recently, the Supreme Court admitted a SLP filed by Jamal, allowing him to return to the Board of Pantheon and reinstated his equity holding of 28.33%.