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Lalit Modi vs the Maags: IPL founder fights court case over million-dollar investment in dud cancer-care venture

On Friday, Day 4 of the trial, Lalit Modi said that it would be wrong to infer that he had personally created marketing literature claiming that prominent personalities were associated with Ion Care.

February 26, 2022 / 06:17 PM IST
Lalit Modi and Gurpreet 'Blu' Gill Maag. The Maags had committed $2 million in investment in Ion Care, but stopped at $1 million when the venture failed to take off.

Lalit Modi and Gurpreet 'Blu' Gill Maag. The Maags had committed $2 million in investment in Ion Care, but stopped at $1 million when the venture failed to take off.

Several start-up ventures end up failing, but that’s least expected if it involves Indian Premier League (IPL) founder Lalit Modi. Ion Care was Modi’s brainchild, which sought to establish and run specialist cancer treatment centres across the world, but which didn’t take off. Now, in a keenly contested legal battle Gurpreet ‘Blu’ Gill Maag claims Modi enticed her and her husband Daniel Maag, a Swiss national and an investment banker, into investing $1 million, which they seek to be returned along with damages.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Lalit Modi, based in the UK since 2010, knowingly made misleading or false claims of prominent individuals from Roger Federer to the King and Queen of Spain, and from Sharad Pawar to Kofi Annan being involved in the project as patrons, leaders, and investors. Lalit Modi maintains that while he knows a host of important personalities across the world, several such names represented a “wish list” of people.

In November 2018, Quantum Care, the company belonging to Maag, invested $1 million. The investment happened seven months after the Maags had a chance meeting with Lalit Modi in April 2018 in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Dubai. They have known each other for several years. It is the contention of the Maags that over a four-hour meeting, Modi shared a presentation about Ion Care following which he invited them to invest in a first “friends and family round” of fundraising.

But on Friday, day four of the keenly fought trial, Lalit Modi, during his cross examination, said that it would be wrong to infer that he himself had personally created marketing literature relating to Ion Care that claimed prominent personalities were associated with it. On several occasions Modi said he cannot remember or was not sure of what transpired in his meeting with the Maags. When Anna Dilnot, QC, representing Maag put it to Modi whether people would sit with him for hours just to hear his vision and not facts, he retorted: “Oh, many people would be interested to hear my ideas and visions.”

“I started IPL with 100 dollars and took it to billions,” said Modi to emphasise his ability to come up with great ideas.

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At one point when Dilnot was asking Modi on specific roles that some of the prominent personalities were to take up in Ion Care, Judge Murray Rosen intervened: “I would ask your best recollection as to who had agreed to the roles.”

Among the famous names that figured prominently were those of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand, and Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of UAE and member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

Wearing a crisp white shirt over a navy blue jacket, and pale grey trousers, Modi told the UK court that he was in regular touch with Shinawatra and Sheikh Mansour, and that they had shown interest in his project. It would thus be wrong to conclude that including their names in marketing materials and sales pitch would amount to misrepresentation. He told the court, however, that he did not directly know the King and Queen of Spain and Princess Haya; they too featured in a blueprint for Ion Care.

“I understand you have a reputation...but would it matter for an investor, not just vision or ideas, but where the money would come from?” asked the judge.

Another prominent name that came up was that of the embattled Prince Andrew, and though his office in the past has said that he had never been a patron of Ion Care, Modi maintains that he had personally spoken to Prince Andrew who had not “committed either way”.

It also emerged that Modi’s plan was to have prominent and respected figures (Prince Andrew, Kofi Annan, Sheikh Mansour) on the foundation/philanthropy side which was to be distinct from seeking direct investment in his venture.

Modi’s legal team has argued that the alleged representations were not made in the manner in which it is being portrayed by the Maags, who are also seasoned investors. “The allegations of deceit are emphatically denied by the defendant,” said Jonathan Price, representing Lalit Modi.

It is common ground that the venture failed to take off, and instead of the planned $2 million, the Maags stopped at the $1 million investment. Following the death of Lalit Modi’s wife in December 2018, the Maags claimed that Modi and his son Ruchir became incommunicado. Subsequently, the Maags were paid $200,000, and they are seeking the payment of the balance sum. There is also a dispute over the payment of interest. Blu Gill Maag is claiming damages for deceit and also for consequential losses.

“I am not disputing that I agreed to pay back, but I never agreed to pay any interest,” Modi told the court. The trial continues.



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Danish Khan is a London-based independent journalist and author of 'Escaped: True Stories of Indian fugitives in London'. He is researching Indian capitalism at University of Oxford.
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