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Wednesday June 12, 2024

Ex-Abraaj executive pleads guilty to criminal charges

Sri Lanka-born and British national Sivendran Vettivetpillai – also known as Sev Vettivetpillai - pleaded guilty from the UK via a remote hearing

By Murtaza Ali Shah
August 18, 2021
Sivendran Vettivetpillai. File photo
Sivendran Vettivetpillai. File photo 

LONDON: Former Abraaj managing partner Sivendran Vettivetpillai has pleaded guilty to nine counts of criminal activities said to have been committed between 2014 and 2018 that could carry a total of 115 years in jail and a fine of up to $11.5 million.

Sri Lanka-born British national Sivendran Vettivetpillai — also known as Sev Vettivetpillai — pleaded guilty from the UK via a remote hearing before Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn at the US District Court, Southern District of New York.

This publication has seen court papers which confirm Vettivetpillai changed his non-guilty plea to a guilty plea in order to get fewer jail years and fine. This follows another Abraaj managing partner Mustafa Abdel-Wadood who also pleaded guilty.

Arif Naqvi, who is on bail and lives at his Knightsbridge apartment, has denied all allegations against him and continues to fight the extradition case, stressing that he will not get justice in the US and that he should be tried in the UK if need be.

Sivendran Vettivetpillai confirmed before the Magistrate Judge “that no threats or promises, or other improper inducements” were made to him to cause him to consent and that he was accepting the criminal charges against him as truth “voluntarily”.

Court papers show that Vettivetpillai’s guilty plea has been accepted by the US judge and he is now awaiting sentencing. The US prosecutors have alleged that Vettivetpillai, Naqvi, Abdel-Wadood and others caused “at least hundreds of millions” of investor funds to be misappropriated, either to disguise liquidity shortfalls or for their personal benefit.

In a court order dated July 23, 2021, Lewis A Kaplan, United States District Judge of the Southern District of New York allowed the guilty pleas of Vettivetpillai to be taken “through videoconference or telephonic means” because of Covid and Sivendran Vettivetpillai’s “medical condition” meant “an in person proceeding cannot be held for the foreseeable future”.

The US prosecutors have alleged that former Abraaj managing partners attempted to hide the firm’s precarious finances from investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while trying to raise $6bn for a private equity fund.

In the indictment, US federal prosecutors allege that Vettivetpillai and others “inflated the valuations of investments in private equity funds by more than half a billion dollars by fraudulently claiming that Abraaj funds were more successful than they were, these inflated valuations deprived investors of accurate information on which to base their investment decisions,” the indictment said.

Defrauded investors included “several” US financial institutions, retirement, and pension funds, as well as a US government agency, according to the indictment.

Vettivetpillai is a chartered financial analyst by profession. He joined Abraaj in 2012 after his investment firm Aureos Capital was acquired by Arif Naqvi. Vettivetpillai was arrested a few days after Naqvi’s arrest in London and temporarily jailed in the UK’s Wandsworth prison during April 2019 in the aftermath of the world’s biggest private-equity insolvency.