Sucheta Dalal :The Curious Mr Vangal
Sucheta Dalal

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The Curious Mr Vangal  

September 21, 2010

Ramesh Vangal, the 'serial entrepreneur', whose deals barely skirt  controversy, is on the defensive again. The man who helped bring Pepsi to  India is making news over whether or not he has sold his holding in  Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB). Mr Vangal was on television claiming  emphatically that he had not sold his shares to Standard Chartered Bank. 

In May 2007, Mr Vangal led a group of six powerful investors who acquired  a 25% stake in TMB from C Sivasankaran's Sterling group. (Mr  Sivasankaran, in turn, had bought the shares from several Essar group  entities after it failed to obtain RBI permission to acquire the Bank.)  The Economic Times says that Mr Vangal's 3.6% of this shareholding (held  by the Katra group) has been transferred to an entity called Subcontinent  Equity, with Stanchart as the beneficial owner. It reports that a couple  of other investors have also transferred their holdings similarly. Mr  Vangal, of course, denies it.

Interestingly, this is not very different from how Mr Vangal acquired the  most lucrative contracts and properties of DSQ Software from Dinesh  Dalmia. The contracts were first transferred to several separate  entities; their names were changed; then mirror companies created in  multiple tax havens like Mauritius and British Virgin Islands to  obfuscate the trail. In that case, assets were transferred through a  company called Globetech Worldwide Ltd (PO Box 146, Wickhams Cay).

Dinesh Dalmia, who has spent the last four years in jail, turned DSQ  Software into a shell company and vanished to the US as Nick Mittal. He  fled back to India after creating another fraud of over $150 million in  US and Europe. Mr Vangal along with Satyen Patel acquired DSQ's assets  and set up Scandent Solutions, which got listed through a reverse merger  with SSI, rather than a public offering that requires detailed  disclosures. It is now Cambridge Solutions. Meanwhile, Mr Vangal moved on  from Scandent and set up the Katra group.

Mr Vangal's key strength is his ability to network and partner with a  rich, powerful and influential group of global Indians in his  investments. He did that again in TMB. Given his past record, Mr Vangal's  claim that he has not sold his TMB holding is viewed with scepticism.  Quietly transferring a chunk of equity in a bank to a potential acquirer  who requires RBI approval is a lot different from buying out Dalmia's  assets. So it will be interesting to watch his next move. Meanwhile,  shouldn't RBI be investigating the dubious goings-on at TMB that Mr  Vangal claimed so openly on television? —
Sucheta Dalal

-- Sucheta Dalal