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SOMAP and SAAMAG Groups Chairman Dinesh Pandey Accused of Ponzi Schemes and Money Laundering

Dinesh Pandey, the Indian business tycoon, has been involved in a panoply of criminal and civil proceedings over the past decade, spending time in prison for his actions. For the past three decades, Mr. Pandey (and his immediate family members) bilked investors for tens of millions of dollars since the establishment of his company, the Somap Group, in Singapore in 1997.  Since then, Mr. Pandey, along with his brother Pramod Pandey, his wife Sonal, his son Avi, and his daughter Ada created a money-making empire that includes the India based SAAMAG Group, a global consortium that controls over fifteen subsidiary companies active in a wide range of industries and businesses.

Dinesh and Pramod Pandey own and direct a breathtaking range of companies involved in ship recycling, commodity trading, media, residential and commercial construction, real estate brokerage, hotels, restaurants, health care and even retail clothing.  According to public records, the Pandey family enjoys an extravagant lifestyle with houses and apartments in the most exclusive areas of London, Singapore, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Columbo, New York and Istanbul – as well as a range of properties throughout India and Sri Lanka.  Dinesh Pandey, far from being humble, lives by the motto: If you’ve got it, flaunt it!  

Mr. Pandey’s success however has been marred by numerous confirmed criminal accusations and court cases over the past 10 years that includes a multi-level marketing scam called “Bike Bot” which “lured investors with the promise of doubled returns in a year”.  Mr. Pandey was arrested in the case in November 2020 and was granted bail by the Indian Supreme Court in September 2021.  In 2012, Mr. Pandey was also charged with evading income taxes in India and in 2017 was disqualified as a director in several companies by the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs.  

In 2018, Pramod Pandey oversaw a Somap Group investment into the Sri Lankan based Anilana Hotels and Properties (ALHP) to the tune of over $66 million.  Anilana Hotels, controlled by the Sri Lankan Investment Tycoon Asanga Seneviratne (who is himself no stranger to financial controversy), was bleeding cash due to an overextension of hotel investments on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Sri Lanka, which rated a dismal 102 on Transparency International’s corruption index and was cited by the US State Department in 2020 for serious human rights abuses for “reports that the government or its agents committed several arbitrary or unlawful killings” was an ideal location for Dinesh Pandey and his family to launder illicit cash and scoop up prime properties at discount prices in murky and corrupt deals. 

Now, however, it looks like Dinesh Pandey’s days of dubious business dealings may be in serious jeopardy due to US and UK sanctions, the war in Ukraine and other external political circumstances beyond his control.  In 2018 the Saamag Group signed a deal with the Russia based Concept Group, which owns the popular Acoola children clothing retail group, that has over 250 stores in Russia.  The deal, which Dinesh Pandey brandished at the time to local Indian media outlets as a major success, has since fallen flat on its face.  The joint venture was supposed to open 10 stores over the first year, but only three stores were opened since the deal was signed, of which two have since closed. (The only Acoola retail store still open for business in India is located at the GIP mall in Noida, Uttar Pradesh and Acoola’s Facebook page in India has not written a post for over the past two years).

The failure of Acoola in India is not the only worry besetting Dinesh Pandey right now.  The Concept Group that owns the Acoola brand is a subsidiary of AFK Sistema PAO, a Russian conglomerate worth over $19 billion. Sistema’s Chairman is Russian billionaire and oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who has been under US sanctions, and who was also sanctioned by the UK Government on April 13th this year due to his close relationship with Russian President Vladmir Putin.  Insiders connected to the deal have stated on background that Mr. Pandey and Mr. Yevtushenkov developed a strong relationship over the past few years and this in turn has brought unwanted attention on Mr. Pandey from American and British law enforcement agencies.  

Further investigations revealed that Singaporean authorities have also opened an inquiry into Dinesh Pandey’s business activities.  The Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (‘STRO) of the Singapore Police are homing in on the Pandey family.  A senior Officer in Singapore’s Financial Intelligence Unit which oversees the STRO confirmed last week that “Dinesh Pandey his brother and family members are under investigation for corruption in Singapore”.  

The Singaporean investigation of the Pandey family is not their only concern.  Closer to home, it was confirmed over this past weekend from a senior official in the Indian Department of Telecommunications that “Dinesh Pandey and SAAMAG are being investigated for money laundering due to an investment of 1.5 Million USD that SAAMAG made into Moltics Infomedia”.  When asked by this author if the investigation was being undertaken by request of a third party country, the senior official denied this and said that, “this investigation was prompted by our department because of a complaint made by a former disgruntled senior manager of the SAAMAG Group”.  The respective investment that SAAMAG made in Moltics Infomedia was only reported in the media last month yet 3 weeks later an investigation into the deal has already begun.  This would suggest that Dinesh Pandey and his family are now firmly in the cross hairs of Indian law enforcement.  Coupled with the international investigation currently being carried out in Singapore and Mr. Pandey’s association with Vladimir Yevtushenkov it’s safe to assume that this story is far from over and that the Pandey family’s corrupt business practices and illegal money dealings may soon be coming to an end. 

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