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Property developer sentenced after a complex, cross-border investigation into assets

A property developer has been sentenced in absentia to 21 months in jail on eight counts of contempt of court and breaching court orders to disclose assets. He was also ordered to pay £268,000 in costs.

However, this sentencing is only the latest stage in these complex and ongoing proceedings that have involved more than 30 court hearings and three trials in both London and Dubai.

The investigation found that Mr Sanjiv Varma’s firm, Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd, had been planning to convert the former Grosvenor Hotel building adjacent to Bristol Temple Meads station into 140 student flats.

The firm marketed the self-contained studio flats for £99,000 each, asking investors for a £50,000 deposit and promising them a good return on their investment.

However, Mr Varma did not even own the building and disappeared once he found out it was unlikely, he would get planning permission for the scheme.

The project collapsed and Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd went into administration in 2018, with the liquidators left to find out what had happened to the millions that investors had handed over as deposits.

As the investigation intensified, it was found that after the liquidation, Mr Varma and his family had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in St Tropez and Dubai and that huge amounts had been spent on luxury goods, including £5 million on jewellery.

Helen Gregory, Forensic Director at Milsted Langdon, explained: “A forensic investigation of this scale often goes far beyond just following the money trail, looking far deeper into a party’s finances and lifestyle.

“In this case, investigators have had to beyond the UK’s borders in pursuit of justice for creditors and the victims of this fraudulent activity.

“Given that Mr Varma had lied about his assets in July 2020, there could be no question of taking his word, so the investigation had to follow every conceivable lead and involved witness statements, as well as tracking cash through various electronic transactions.

“While Mr Varma remains absent from proceedings, this sentencing ensures that further steps can be taken to bring him to justice in future.”

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