Copal Art fund investors allege they have been cheated

Investors say paintings in which they invested were priced too high and hence could not find any buyers. Copal not too keen on promised buyback, says it was a “goodwill gesture”

Investors, who put their money into art funds launched by Copal Art in 2006, have alleged that they have been cheated by the management and haven't got their money back.

Copal's business model allowed investors to actually possess the paintings they invested in. Later, when the paintings would appreciate in value, they were to be sold through Copal's portals. Investors were promised multiple returns.

About a year ago, the company offered to buy back those paintings owned by its investors that had remained unsold. Investors, however, have complained that the exercise has not resulted in returns.

"There are four cases of cheque bounce and stop payments. These investors got money from Copal after sending legal notices. It's very difficult to believe Copal's promises and after the cases of cheques bouncing, investors are afraid of sending the painting (to Copal) without receiving the amount on the cheque," says Sachin Kaluskar, a financial advisor. Back in 2006, Mr Kaluskar was a partner of InvestmentIdea Financial Services that handled many transactions for those investing with Copal.

Strangely, Copal denies it is an art fund and says there is no buyback policy. "We would like to clarify that Copal is not a fund. Copal is an art advisory for emerging and established collectors of art," says Ajay Seth, chief mentor, Copal Art. "According to our service terms and conditions, we do not offer a buyback facility. The buyback service was an exceptional service provided as a goodwill gesture."

Mr Seth insists there are no instances of investors not receiving their money in full if they have returned the paintings to Copal, and that they are always in touch with their clients.

Investors, have a different story. Amit Makwana, from Junagadh, had invested in Copal's art fund, and also got some of his friends to do so. "I have not got my Rs2 lakh back. I had invested in a painting which was priced at Rs7,500 per sq ft on canvas. Now, I cannot sell at such a price, so I am holding back."

One of Mr Makwana's friends threatened Copal with legal action, after which, the fund agreed to buy back his paintings. However, Copal asked him not to deposit the cheque that he received, saying that the money was being transferred. When the cheque was deposited after two-three months, it was revealed that there was a stop payment order against it. When the investor threatened to go to court, Copal transferred his funds to his account.

Baroda-based advocate Amit Shah has filed legal complaints against Copal on behalf of two investors. "One investor got his money back after almost six months of dilly-dallying, after we filed a criminal complaint under Section 138 of the Indian Penal Code when the cheques for the buyback scheme bounced. Copal also claims that the paintings were damaged, which is a lie, because investors know how to take care of their investments. My second client has a huge portfolio of Rs45 lakh with Copal, and his case has suffered the same delay."

Though Copal denies not paying any investor, there have been many complaints. A chemical trader from Surat is following up with Copal for payment on behalf of his friends as well, but they have not received any money. A managing director of a chemical company is saddled with a Kishore Shinde painting-cum-sculpture since 2008, which hasn't found any buyers despite Copal's assurances.

Copal Art, a gallery in New Delhi, launched two art funds at a time when the economy was going through a short 'feel-good' phase. Unlike high-flying Osians which catered to HNIs, Copal said it was different-it allowed people to enter with an amount of Rs1 lakh.

But with the recession in 2008, all dreams crashed. Investors discovered that Copal had priced the paintings so high that there were no takers in the market. Replying to a question, Mr Seth said art had to be withheld for 3-4 years for value appreciation. Pressured by investors who threatened legal action, Copal decided to buy back the paintings from investors. The buyback is expected to finish by December.

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    9 years ago

    I do agree with the comments made above....Also i would like to inform the general public that Mr Seth does not have any sale portal, its a fake portal wherein he purchases only those paintings again for which he gets the demand and sells them at a higher price to other client.

    UK Service Provider

    9 years ago

    We are a UK based firm and are still waiting for full payment for services rendered and have had to instruct a lawyer...

    P S Patel

    9 years ago

    Copal is a cheat company. And we have knowledge that Copal has cheated many other investors in Gujarat. I have invested large sum in its art fund. We were lured by Mr. Ajay Seth's marketing skills. Business also runs on trust. Mr. Seth took me in his trust and promised huge returns from the investments I made with his Company - Copal. Mr. Seth told me to keep my Kishore Shinde painting in his custody. He said, Kishore Shinde's price would double in just SIX Months. He also called me and told me that Kishore Shinde's price doubled to 60,000 per Sq Ft from 32,000 per Sq Ft (my buying price). I told him to sell my painting. He then, started showing his true colours. He was giving me various dates to sell my painting. His Portal - came in exsistance after One Year of my investment. He said, he would surely sell my painting through the portal. Nothing happened since 2008.

    In this article, Mr. Seth denies launch of any Art Fund which is Ridiculous. He was trying to take money from me in his 1000 cr art fund.

    Now when I call him, he never takes my calls and if he takes, he gives very nasty answers. He has told me not call him. His office would inform me if my painting would get sold.

    In past, when an investor filed a legal case against Copal for recovery of his money, Mr. Seth met me and promised to sell my painting. He also convinced me not to accept Buy-Back, instead he would sell my painting with huge profits. None of his promise he has kept. I have consulted a Lawyer and I will connect will all other investors of Gujarat and file a Criminal case against entire team of Copal Art Pvt Ltd for cheating us. I have got to know that Mr. Ashok Vajpeyi is now Chairman of Copal Art. There will be case against him also.

    bhupesh gupta

    9 years ago

    the consultants name should read as ernst & young and not price waterhouse coopers as mrentioned in the above comments.

    bhupesh gupta

    9 years ago

    well it is indeed sad that fly by night operaters flourish in art business and indulge in open loot thanks to lack of regulation these dream merchants siphon off the amount thus collected from naive investors and saddle them with duds in the name of art works which are hugely inflated in price by bringing out so called research reports which are not worth the paper it's written on!

    the only recourse left to these hapless individuals is to form a collective fora and initiate collective action.
    in recent past copal was boasting about price waterhouse coopers as consultant for it's impending art fund of 1000 crores and sent out mails to this effect suddenly now copal is trying to side -step the issue because they don't want to face the regulatory heat.
    well if might is right then they should be held accountable for their misdeeds of ommission and commission on a collective basis rather than in scattered instances where only a few who are slapping them with legal notices for criminal breach of trust are getting their money back.

    Is it safe to buy gold even now?

    The price of gold in India has been on a bull run for the last 13 years. Are gold prices nearing a bubble? 

    Big investors and researchers predict that gold is headed towards a bubble. In January last year, George Soros, the famous Hungarian-American billionaire investor and stakeholder in the Bombay Stock Exchange, cautioned: "When interest rates are low we have conditions for asset bubbles to develop, and they are developing at the moment. The ultimate asset bubble is gold." He was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

    Was Soros just talking through his hat, as he deliberately does many times? Apparently, from the middle of last month, the billionaire investor sold off 99% of his holdings in gold for $800 million, including whatever profit he made during the gold climb. Soros is one of the world's finest speculators and his action should worry some investors who might do well to ask: 'Is it true that gold prices have reached their peak?' The question is even more important, given that there is tremendous interest in gold in India.

    From a master speculator, let's turn our attention to academics immersed in arcane quantitative concepts. In December 2010, a team from the Research Institute of Mining Geomechanics and Mine Surveying (VNIMI) and the Russian Academy of Sciences started looking at whether gold is in a bubble and they published their findings in a paper titled "Log-Periodic Oscillation Analysis and Possible Burst of the 'Gold Bubble' in April- June 2011". The researchers Sergey V Tsirel, Askar Akaev, Alexey Fomin and Andrey V Korotayev, came to a simple conclusion that gold is in a bubble and it is about to burst.

    The team applied the methodology used by Didier Sornette, professor of the Swiss Finance Institute who is well known for his work on the prediction of crises and extreme events in complex systems. Using this method, known as "the Log-Periodic Oscillation analysis", the researchers calculated the probable time of the crash between April and June 2011. To further reinforce their prediction, the result was further verified by two other methods.

    First, they compared the pattern of the gold price to the pattern portrayed by the oil bubble crash of July 2008, which gave them the timing around May-June 2011. Second, they estimated the critical time for the hyperbolic trend in the socio-economic processes (like population growth before the demographic transition, global GDP growth and energy production per capita, and so on). This also led them to May-June 2011 as the most probable time for the gold crash. The calculations also estimated a price range of $1,500-$1,700 when gold could top out.

    The team of four of course provided a disclaimer saying, "The calculations performed by Sornette's method and other estimates are based on the idea that all players will try to maximize profit just in this market, and will not believe in forecasts like the one we propose (otherwise we shall deal with a "non-self-fulfilling prophecy"). If a very large player, such as the Central Bank of China, intervenes with other goals (longer-term, depending on political calculations, etc.), then the foundation upon which all such forecasts are based disappears." Like all predictions, their calculations too are based on assumptions that could turn out to be wrong.

    Regarding the overall economic impact, should the gold price actually crash, the researchers write that the crash would lead to huge losses and even bankruptcy of major players in the markets, including dependent firms and banks. This negative reaction will be amplified by the media, drawing similarities with the events of the early 1980s and other such similar events. "The burst of 'the golden bubble' will be followed by a short-term downswing, and the further developments will depend on the directions of investment at the moment, as well as on the reaction of the US Federal Reserve and the Central Bank of China to the events." On the positive side, if at the time of the collapse some promising areas of investment appear in the developed or developing countries, investment capital can be moved to those markets, which would contribute to the production of new goods and services and accelerate the way out of the crisis.

    Coming back to the main question, "Is it safe to buy gold now?" We at Moneylife have always considered gold as a purely speculative asset (Read: "Are gold prices infallible?"
    Benjamin Graham, the famous investor, referred to speculation as the "greater fool" theory by saying, "I know I am a fool to pay such a high price for a stock, but I know that a greater fool will come along and pay me an even higher price." Though Graham was speaking about stocks, the same could be said about speculative instruments such as gold, beyond a point. Therefore, before buying gold think again.(You may also want to read, "Gold: All told")

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    8 years ago

    this is a very nice post.. thanks for sharing this i like this post.. very much.

    sanjay doshi

    9 years ago

    I feel the price of gold on an inflation adjusted basis was right at about Rs 20,000 . This rise to Rs 22450 seems to be pure speculation. I don't think it will rise above rs 23,000. Just as gold , silver , stocks,commodities rose together,since 2007, I feel they will fall together.


    9 years ago

    Gold is a different class of asset. Not comparable to stock market investment. Stock market needs regular supply of fools to flourish. Not so with gold. It is safe investment and hedge against inflation. Gold is highly liquid. Any time is good time to buy gold in these uncertain economies.


    9 years ago

    Very informative article. Please allow me to put forward some of my thoughts which might be contrary to your research. I am thinking like a layman.
    Why is gold safe to buy and hold gold(this includes both physical and demat gold).
    1. Increasingly uncertain world. US dollar in downtrend.Unreliabilty on Chinese Yuan due to lack of transparency. Indian rupee and India still a long way off from being the dominant currency and country respectively.
    2. Though gold offers no regular income like other assets, its still what the world turns to for stability.
    3. Deeply entrenched Indian mentality of finding safety in gold and also as a precious commodity which is usually gifted to our daughters on their marriage. This trend is still strong across all states and communities. Therefore the buying from india would hardly decrease. Even when gold touched life time highs, Jewellers across India made huge profits on days like akshaya trithya. Showrooms were kept specially open till 11 to 12 pm to enable people to buy gold.
    4. Demat gold allows small investors like me to buy gold in small quantities for long term purpose for the same reasons mentioned above.
    5. Even if gold prices crash, it will be speculators who suffer and not buyers as they always believe that gold is not for trading but an investment for generations passed down as heirloom.Infact they might buy more when prices go down and store for future.

    Buying gold and silver from banks? Think again

    HDFC Bank sells silver at over Rs70,000 when the National Spot Exchange sells it for around Rs53,700 and the local jeweller sells silver for Rs55,000! And gullible customers are buying

    Banks have hit upon a new idea to get a larger share of your wallet-retailing gold and silver. While the banks claim that buying gold or silver from them is a wise decision, if you want to buy gold or silver don't go to your bank!

    Buying gold or silver from a bank may give you the satisfaction about the purity of silver as a bank is more reputable than the jeweller next door, but it also means that you pay much more.

    HDFC Bank was the first bank in the country to sell physical silver. You will be surprised to know the rates that HDFC Bank is charging for gold and silver compared to the rates at the local jewelers, or even the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL). Silver is available at jewellers at between Rs55,000 and Rs56,000 a kg, whereas HDFC Bank is offering the white metal at Rs74,040 a kg. Those keen can buy e-silver from the National Spot Exchange at Rs53,700 a kg. It's the same for gold too. Jewellers are quoting around Rs22,300 to Rs22,500 per 10gm and one can also buy e-gold from NSEL at Rs22,300, however, HDFC Bank is quoting around Rs25,943 per 10gm.

    But why this huge price difference?

    When asked about the price issue, a spokesperson for HDFC Bank said, "It is true that we charge more than the market price, but this is because of purity, 24-karat gold made in Switzerland with Assay certification, that signifies the highest level of purity as per international standards and convenience." Some top jewellers challenge this, saying there is no difference between the gold and silver they sell and that sold by HDFC Bank.

    The prices are only half the story. But what if you want to sell it? Will HDFC Bank buy back the gold and silver? No, and you will be in for a shock when you try to sell it in the open market.

    If you bought silver from a bank today for Rs71,000, and you needed to sell it the same day (to a jeweller, as the bank will not buy the gold back from you), all you will get is, say, Rs54,000! Of course, you get to keep the certificate! The jeweler, on the other hand, will buy back the gold or silver from you on any day and at the prevailing price. Some jewellers also give you a certificate for the gold you buy, thus diluting a key selling point of the bank.

    So, while buying gold and silver, give the banks a skip. Opt instead for a credible jeweler, as even in the case of jewellers, we found a lot of price variation with branded stores charging a premium. Do your homework well before you buy gold. It will help you if you read the Moneylife definitive study on gold. (Read,Gold: All told). And, of course always buy standard, hallmarked gold. If you do decide to go to a jeweler to buy gold in bulk, do negotiate. It is likely you will get a discount. In our conversations with a couple of brokers, we were offered a discount on bulk purchases.

    Based on our interactions with thousands of individuals every month, we find that instances of mis-selling of investment-related services and products are growing at an alarming rate and the prime source of mis-selling are private banks. (Read, 'Customers need to be vigilant as bankers are turning bhayankar')
    Customers don't know any better, as their trust the bankers blindly. No wonder, that HDFC Bank can claim to Moneylife that "in spite of higher charges we sold over 1,200kg of gold against 850kg last year during Akshaya Tritya. This year we sold around 600kg silver against 95kg last year."

    Banks are making tonnes of money mis-selling financial and other products to their own gullible customers.

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    Rajan Makhija

    6 years ago

    India is one big mob country where no rules apply.No one is accountable. All Goondas are politicians who own all industries and educational institutions.


    7 years ago

    Today I wanted to buy gold of 50 gms. Th eprsoel banker called me and told the price to be Rs.1,45,000. When consulted HDFC bank the person told it is Rs.1,45,150. This means additional Rs.150. A cheque was issued to the value of Rs.1,45,150. After going to bank he says it is Rs.1,45,290. The additional value is for sales tax.

    I could not make out why the price went on incresing and hence cancelled teh transaction


    9 years ago

    Now a days Banks are indulging in many bad practices. e.g. Banks are mis-using depositors money to buy huge properties for their own business like opening new Branches and HO and admin offices. and they pay Depositors megre interest. They spent heavily on their Executives and Managers. They spend unnecessariy on Advertising and Hoarding and entertainments.
    Banks can easily pay depositors much higher say 15-20% p.a. But now a days Banks are indulging in many malpractices. e.g. Banks are mis-using depositor’s money to buy huge properties for their own business like opening new Branches and HO and admin offices. Besides they pay Depositors meagre interest. They spent heavily on their salaries, perquisites, tours & travels, star hotels and entertainments Executives and Managers. They spend unnecessarily on Advertising and Hoarding and sponsoring entertainments programs.
    They finance heavily to Real Estate and Construction and development activity. Whereas these sectors need no funds as they are mostly own by people having surplus funds and are mostly self financing.
    No body can book a flat or shop without paying advance money.
    So unless there are some vested interest from bank executives these sectors are not to be encouraged.
    Similarly entertainments businesses also need no urgent financing aid.


    9 years ago

    RBI must instruct banks to back GOLD at least at bank selling rates, then only its worth to buy from bank ensuring liquidity and confidence. Banks must buy at a guaranteed same rate plus 10% if sold within 1 year.


    rocky rocks

    In Reply to MAK 4 years ago

    The RBI itself is the Biggest mob of this country .
    I don't know how you don't know that even RBI is printing the currency which should be backed by gold but it's not.
    So it means that they can print any amount of money they want and circulate in market which will??
    Which will ensure taxes as much as they want.
    A 100₹ circulate in market and each and every time makes 5-18% in taxes.
    Who gets them??


    10 years ago

    Another interesting fact is that a substantial potion of these overpriced metals are sold to borrowers in the SME segment. These poor fellows who have a Term Load / Cash Credit / Overdraft account in the bank have no other option but to oblige the Bank Babu's...


    10 years ago

    Reading the article only makes me wonder why people would possibly want to buy from a bank. With rates being charged in the manner that they are is this not DAY LIGHT robbery ?? The banker should be made to disclose that the prevailing rate in the market & the fact that he is charging so much .Now does a customer have the option of complaining to the Omsbudsman or the RBI . A situation which they could and should have addressed by now. Just what is it thats stopping them from making this an issue wherein the banks would have to declare prevailing rates. This should be taken up and for the public made a issue that gets rectified. Ever so often banks staff say somthing that is not easily proved and now the bank mangement should be made to say the truth . The fact that this Gold & silver will not be re purchased is enough of a dampener , to put off many customers .


    10 years ago

    banks should repurchase the gold they sold


    10 years ago

    we will be very soon seeing banks selling salt, chilly, sugar, atta in their branches and banking will become also one of their side business where today margins seemed to be pathetic when compared to the earnigs from their selling mutual funds, insurance, gold, silver etc...

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