An investor, who was persuaded by ABN Amro Bank to invest in Osian's Art Fund, has received no payment as yet. He has now been offered payment in instalments, while the fund claims that its problems are over
While the media is lauding Osian's Art Fund’s return and having put its problems behind—investors who have not been paid a penny continue to pop up. One such investor is Kamal Mansharamani, who, despite following up the matter with Neville Tuli, the founder-chairman and chief executive of Osian’s, and ABN AMRO has not received any money.
According to Mr Mansharamani, he was ‘persuaded’ by his relationship manager at ABM AMRO to invest in the Fund. “I have been following up with Mr Tuli for three years now. He has made umpteen promises and broken all of them. ABN AMRO also has completely washed their hands off this. They are not helping at all. I believe that a lot of people have got part investment back. I have got nothing," he said in an email to Moneylife.
ABN AMRO has washed its hands off the art fund that it pushed hard for commissions. When Mr Mansharamani wrote to Moneylife, based on our previous articles, we gave him the email of Neville Tuli and his law firm, Nishit Desai & Co, which has been sending out letters on behalf of Osian’s and its related entities.
On 30th June, Mr Mansharamani, received a reply on behalf of the Osian’s Art Fund from Ambassador (retd) Niranjan Desai, head for communications. In the reply, Mr Desai claimed that the Fund is in regular contacts with all the bankers since past three years and have personally spoken to every unit holder who had approached them.
Mr Mansharamani had said that he has been trying to contact Mr Tuli, but since past several months he neither received any reply nor anybody informed him about changed mobile number of Mr Tuli. In his reply, Mr Desai, said, “On receiving your mail, Mr Tuli did try to contact you immediately on phone yesterday but there was no response. You can call him at 9xxx xxxx7. He has never received a call from you before. It may be you have been trying a very old mobile number which was changed over two years ago.”
Speaking about the delay in repayment from the Fund, Mr Desai, claimed that Osian’s-Connoisseurs of Art Pvt Ltd has been constantly helping to solve the Osian’s Art Fund redemption matter so as to bring a closure to this without any loss of capital.
“...because of the severe downturn in the art market and many defaults and cancellation of purchase agreements, the actual net asset value (NAV) of the Fund would have been much less than the capital invested (nearly 41% to 43% lower). Instead Osian’s-Connoisseurs of Art’s asset manager decided to protect the unit holders capital from this meltdown. Unfortunately, the funds required could not be raised and so all the ensuing delays and problems followed,” he said.
“You would agree that few, if any, asset managers would take such an action when there was no legal compulsion; yet we were very conscious of our ethical obligations. In the process Osian's nearly went bankrupt on account of absorbing these losses. However, it has slowly recovered and consolidated itself so as to restart its auction and other businesses,” he said.
“However, the support of Osian’s is naturally dependent on their surplus liquidity and the market conditions. It is a slow process as the market is far from stabilized. Yet, Osian’s is fully committed to support the Osian’s Art Fund so as to bring this issue to a closure,” Mr Desai added.
While the Fund claimed to have repaid around 85% of the money to the investors, Mr Mansharamani said he have not received anything. He said, “In his (Mr Tuli's) last communication to me on 25 August 2011, Mr Tuli had committed that 85% of the amount will be given back shortly.”
Mr Desai, explaining the delay in repayment, said this is mainly due to Mr Mansharamani’s inward challan number which is almost at the end and therefore is part of the last few unit holders to be paid. “The Art Fund is proposing to complete 20% payment by 16-19 August, and then with the 31st July auction it will pay another 20% by 24-28 August 2012. Thereafter the Art Fund will provide the next timeline of instalments up to 85% of the capital invested," Mr Desai said in his email reply.
However, Mr Mansharamani said when in August 2011, Mr Tuli has committed 85% of the amount to be given back shortly, how come the Fund is now offering 20-20%? “It is almost a year since (Mr Tuli's commitment) then and we are back to 20% and 20%. I understand that most of the investors have received 85% of their money. I would like to understand why I am being discriminated?" he asked.
Moneylife has been consistently following up the matter for investors who have not received their money. In November 2009, Mr Tuli had told Moneylife that he had informed all unit-holders of Osian’s Art Fund that the NAV of the scheme would be Rs112.29, including dividend payout. This message, Mr Tuli told was sent out to investors on 8 October 2009.
Osian’s Art Fund is a three-year close-ended fund launched in June 2006. It raised Rs102.40 crore from 656 unit-holders across 39 cities, most of them high net-worth individuals (HNIs). The scheme used to declare NAVs showing 30% returns, but when it was time for redemption, the money wasn’t forthcoming. The scheme was wound up on 10 July 2009, at which time Mr Tuli wrote to the investors that redemptions would be made over the next 120 days as per the terms of the redemption guidelines.
But by October, when the money wasn't forthcoming, Moneylife was the first to report on Osian’s problems (Read Osian Art Fund delays payout). Following our reports, many investors were paid anywhere between 40% and 100% of their principal but earned no returns at all. The rest have been kept hanging for years with promises of payment.
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