NMC founder BR Shetty to return to UAE after Indian court lifts travel ban

Shetty has filed a petition challenging the look-out circular issued against him by the immigration authorities

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Issac John

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Published: Sun 11 Feb 2024, 3:53 PM

Last updated: Sun 11 Feb 2024, 4:12 PM

The High Court of India's Karnataka state has allowed entrepreneur BR Shetty, who is facing proceedings for recovery of loans, to go abroad by imposing stringent conditions.

The court on Friday suspended the Lookout Circulars (LOCs) issued by Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank and the endorsement issued by the Bureau of Immigration against Shetty, founder of Abu Dhabi-headquartered NMC Health, and granted conditional permission for him to travel to Abu Dhabi for treatment.

The order was passed by a bench headed by Justice Krishna S Dixit, who heard the petition filed by Shetty challenging the look-out circular issued against him by the immigration authorities.

Shetty, who lives in Bengaluru, could not be reached on his Indian number to find out his travel plans to the UAE four years after fleeing to India.

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In 2021, the state's high court rejected Shetty's plea against the action of the Bureau of Immigration restraining him from leaving India based on the LOCs issued by two public sector banks to whom his companies owe around Rs 28 billion.

Indian immigration authorities, on November 14, 2020, denied him permission to fly to Abu Dhabi from Bengaluru airport based on the LOCs issued by the banks in relation to the default of loans granted to companies promoted by him.

Shetty, whose wealth was estimated by Forbes to be around $4 billion in 2019, is facing a lawsuit in London by administrators of the debt-ridden NMC Health. In July 2023, NMC filed a $4 billion lawsuit against Shetty and its former CEO, Prasanth Manghat, related to allegations of fraud, which led to its fall in 2020. In November 2023, the UK's financial watchdog found that the hospital operator had committed market abuse by understating its debts by as much as $4 billion.

NMC Health, founded in Abu Dhabi in 1974 by Shetty, was a London-listed healthcare operator running hospitals in the Middle East. It entered the FTSE 100 in 2017 after rapid growth and was valued at £8.6 billion at its peak in 2018.

The Karnataka court, while allowing Shetty to go abroad if no other restriction exists for his travel abroad other than these LOCs, has directed him to file an affidavit giving an undertaking not to alienate or meddle with his properties anywhere in the globe, disclosed or undisclosed, and to come back to India whenever needed for legal proceedings, and not to leave the country without the prior permission.

Noticing that the banks have not initiated any criminal proceedings against him so far, the court said. "Shetty should not resist, on any ground, if any proceedings that may be instituted under the provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act of 2018, the Extradition Act, 1962, or such other law, or any extradition/rendition proceedings are taken up abroad."

The court observed that no criminal case is pending against the petitioner. "Therefore, the process of forced recovery will not be carried out. Also, the applicant is an Indian citizen and is eligible to travel abroad. He is 80 years old and needs to stay with his wife and children; he should be allowed to travel to UAE," the bench mentioned in its order.

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