NEW DELHI: Two witnesses, who gave court statements in support of the defamation complaint filed by NSA Ajit Doval's son Vivek against 'The Caravan' alleged that the published article, and subsequent use of its content by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, resulted in huge unrest among investors of Vivek's firm.
Nikhil Kapur, Vivek's friend and his business partner Amit Sharma recorded their statements before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, who has posted the matter for further hearing on February 22.
They said allegations levelled in the article were false, including the one which said that Vivek's business was linked to his elder brother Shaurya Doval.
Sharma said there was no financial interest between Vivek's and Shaurya's companies and that the magazine's allegations of Vivek's overseas ventures being linked to that of his elder brother was "absolutely incorrect" and "mala fide".
"Even Vivek's brother Shaurya runs his business of investment but there is no financial interest between our companies.
The statement by The Caravan that says that "Vivek Doval's overseas ventures are inexplicably linked to businesses run by his elder brother Shaurya Doval in Asia' is absolutely incorrect and mala fide," Sharma said.
The magazine had in its January 16 article written that the "Documents accessed by The Caravan also show that Vivek Doval's overseas ventures are inextricably linked to businesses run by his elder brother, Shaurya Doval, in Asia".
Sharma, in his statement said that there was a "huge unrest" among investors after the article was published and that the investors have been insistent that Vivek should step down as they apprehend that he will be a "continued target" due to his family background.
"The fund has suffered gravely due to this incident.
A number of prospective investors have backed out or have shown reluctance to make investments in the fund.
People in London, Singapore and Cayman Islands are closely following the story.
"There was huge unrest among and I was getting repeated calls with investors showing their anguish. Investors even till today are of the view that irrespective of allegations being true or false Vivek should not continue as fund manager. He should step down and somebody else should take charge as they apprehend that he would be a continued target due to his family background in India," said Sharma.
He said that ever since the article was published, internet search results on their company shows news of money laundering and such an accusation can have irreparable damage on their reputation.
"Investors carry out thorough due diligence (Google searches, they check our backgrounds, they check our criminal records and others). So now if a potential investor searches our background, these allegations such as money laundering will show up in our records. I would like to highlight that money laundering in the West or in big financial centres is a very serious crime. Even an accusation of such nature whether true or not causes irreparable damage. Any impression of being involved in illegal activities has disastrous consequences," said Sharma.
He also stated that he didn't know about Vivek's father when they both associated as business partners.
"I didn't know of Vivek's father when Vivek and I associated as business partners in London in 2013. Vivek made it very clear from the beginning that his father or his family contacts or background will not be used for any business purposes. In his business dealings he always maintained distance from his family. As far as I am aware, he never had any political ambitions and did not concern himself with professional affairs of his family members," said Sharma, who is one of the co-founders of the fund and heads its research wing.
He further said that though he is not mentioned in the article but it was his defamation as well.
"It is my defamation as well. So I am Vivek's partner. The fund is implicated. I was the main launcher, co-founder of the fund. My reputation is directly impacted as well by association with the fund (co-founder and head of research) with Vivek. I had to answer to service providers, other fellow professionals in London and friends and family" said Sharma Kapur, a Pune-based businessman and Vivek's classmate said in his statement that the article was a "copy paste" job and there was no merit in what was published.
"Without doubt, Vivek is not involved in any of the things that has been published, Kapur said. Vivek in his complaint had said that the magazine and Ramesh had attempted to "deliberately malign and defame" him to "settle scores with his father".
The Caravan in its January 16 online write-up titled 'The D Companies' had said that Vivek Doval, "runs a hedge fund in the Cayman Islands" which is "an established tax haven" and was "registered merely 13 days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government demonetised all existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, in 2016".
According to the complaint, Ramesh had held a press conference on January 17 reiterating the "baseless and unfounded facts" as narrated in the article.