Controversial Canadian-Indian Businessman Sri Ram Tumuluri Held In Dubai

UAE govt says he remains under Investigation by authorities for alleged financial corruption

Controversial Canadian-Indian Businessman Sri Ram Tumuluri Held In Dubai

Controversial Canadian-Indian businessman Sri Ram Tumuluri, who was recently arrested by the police in Dubai as part of an investigation on financial corruption involving several bounced cheques, remains under Investigation from the authorities in the Gulf state. However, he has been granted bail.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has said that investigations against Tumuluri are ongoing. They warned that the businessman could be banned from the country if he fails to settle his debts. 

But who is Tumuluri and why did the UAE government take such drastic steps against him? Let's take a deeper look into the murky world of the Canadian businessman and his dealings across the world.

Indian and American media this week wrote in detail about a trial of deception and lies that traces its roots from Canada to India.

A journalist’s killing 

Tumuluri's long-winded controversial trail surfaces when celebrated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a tragic car bomb near her home in October 2017.

Galizia was targeted within weeks after announcing that she would be exposing several financial scandals pertaining to controversial Canadian-Indian businessman Sri Ram Tumuluri. Having spent several years investigating Tumuluri until her tragic murder. 

Although two Maltese nationals, brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, have confessed to murdering Galizia, those close to the journalist say the Maltese authorities have failed to investigate the murder properly, with several questions still unanswered. 

The murdered journalist had written extensively about the financial crimes of Sri Ram Tumuluri. The journalist, who had also worked on the Panama Papers scandal, had written dozens of articles on Sri Rama Tumuluri and was set to release a big story when she was killed. Her assassination had rocked Malta.

Through her “Running Commentary” blog, Galizia had dedicated considerable time and resources to exposing Tumuluri, and described him as:

However, the office of the politician has refuted Tumuluri’s claims as ludicrously wild and plainly false, and that he was lying to save his skin by throwing others under the bus. 

While working in Malta, local media reported that Tumuluri allegedly had an affair with Deborah Chappell, a Maltese lawyer and former director of Technoline. 

Local investigators say Galizia was in the process of exposing the involvement of another politician when she was killed.

Corruption payments to govt officials 

Tumuluri was recently thrust into the limelight again after evidence emerged that his UK-based Causis Group made several undeclared and bribes in 2015 to Carmen Ciantar, the chief political advisor to Malta’s health minister Chris Fearne. 

She resigned from her role after evidence emerged that Ciantar had received €443,500 from Gozo International Medicare Ltd – part of the VGH group. The money came from the firm’s accounts in the Dubai-headquartered Emirates NBD Bank. 

Within a few months of the transfers, local daily the Times of Malta reported that Ciantar had gone to work as the head of Fearne’s election campaign – during which time he also appointed her as the CEO of FMS.

It’s understood that the Maltese authorities are looking to speak to Tumuluri, but he has refused to travel to the country or cooperate with the inquiry he faces there.

Through his lawyers, he has communicated his innocence in making these payments, which were, according to him, for a business deal

Permanent deceptive pattern

In all his operations, Tumuluri has displayed a consistent pattern: he attracts investors with deals where he does not have sufficient funds to invest in; portrays them as easy money opportunities; sets up an opaque offshore corporate structure; pulls in his associates and past business connections; obtains partial funding for the project; walks away from the project with any funds invested, having purposefully failed to file accounts; and moves on to an alternative project. 

By maintaining a low level of tangible assets (i.e. renting rather than owning property), even in litigious situations, the plaintiffs are unable to make claims against any significant resources owned in Tumuluri’s name.

An analysis of public records shows Tumuluri has consistently failed to file annual returns of companies he incorporated in India, the USA, Canada and Singapore. Thus, there is no account of where the funds have gone.

Early career

Ram Tumuluri was born in the Indian city of Hyderabad to Satynarayana Tumuluri and Bharti Tumuluri, a Brahmin middle-class family with no business history. 

Tumuluri has claimed he received an undergraduate degree in culinary arts from Osmania University. Osmania University said it does not offer the specific course for which he claims to hold a degree.

The controversial businessman has claimed that he then attended the London School of Economics (LSE), but the LSE administration has no record of Tumuluri as a student. The LSE says it has sent a letter to Ram Tumuluri to stop making false representations. 

In 2014, Tumuluri filed for bankruptcy in Canada. Tumuluri was in such a dire situation that he joined the “stay with a stranger for free network” in Singapore, where he would not have to pay hotel bills or rent.

Couchsurfing, an internet-based network allows members look for somewhere to stay for free, such as a complete stranger’s home when travelling or moving to a new place. So in 2014, Tumuluri was looking to sleep on strangers’ sofas when he left Canada (and his financial troubles there) for Singapore. But in January 2015, he was seen cutting big deals, gaining funds and later running them in the pit

Indian failures

In India, Ram Tumuluri established the Ayucare brand under his company, Holistic Healthcare. 

The businessman has fostered the impression that his company had taken the country by storm; in reality, one of the main spas was a bungalow in a residential area, and the business folded after a few years after making huge losses.

In 2008, his financial vehicle, Tumuluri Hospitality Inc, invested 10 million Indian rupees (equivalent to US$230,000) in the company.

At the time, this was a significant investment, considering that only a few years before, Ram Tumuluri had left Marriott Hotels in Alberta, Canada, to work as senior manager of the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, Canada. The venture, though, ended in failure, and today, there is no signage for Ayucare or Holistic Health. Only a banner advertising the leasing of the property hangs outside.

Tumuluri and his wife Sonya, the only two registered officials for the company, never fulfilled any of the mandatory filing requirements of the Canadian companies registry after registering the company. The Canadian authorities then dissolved the company for non-compliance

United States

In the United States, Ram Tumuluri married Phrasavath Douangmala, and they divorced in April 2003. His history in the US spans from approximately 1998 until 2004, having lived in Chicago, Illinois. 

Tumuluri’s date of birth in the Milwaukee County divorce court documents is shown as September rather than May 1975.

It is unclear whether this was a deliberate attempt to avoid leaving a trail. Corporate registries in the US have Tumuluri as director of a real estate development company struck off in 2014 for not filing annual returns.  

Tumuluri is identified in US records with a social security number issued in Illinois in 1998. Phrasavath Douangmala runs an assisted living facility named Douangmala Phrasavath Adult Family Home for individuals with disabilities, which appears to be located at her residence.

Corporate directorship record show Tumuluri as a past president and director of Venturex Hawaii Investment Corporation, incorporated in Hawaii in May 2003 and dissolved in December 2014 for not filing an annual report.

The other individual listed, Mamoru Hamanishi, traces to British Columbia and is linked to Tumuluri there.

Bankruptcies and failures in Canada
Tumuluri subsequently moved to Canada, where his business practices set the hallmark for a pattern of behaviour repeated throughout his career to date. 

All his firms were dissolved due to non-filing of company accounts. Litigation records spell out the details of claims such as misuse of company funds and failure to provide accounting information to business partners.

His projects all failed and left behind a string of claims by creditors ranging from mortgage providers to smaller unpaid suppliers. Notably, throughout his period in Canada, Tumuluri owned a property on only one occasion.

Federal and state documents in Canada record Tumuluri having incorporated seven companies since 2006. Only one remains active; the remaining six were dissolved for failure to file company records.

Between 2005 and 2010, he became involved in the purchase and management of two hotel projects in British Columbia; one at Nita Lake Lodge (NLL Holdings), where he teamed with Praveen Varshney, a venture fraught with allegations of financial mismanagement and misuse of company funds, and the other at Cable Cove Inn and Spa which led to legal proceedings due to defaulted mortgage payments.

Both became embroiled in litigation proceedings. In registering the seven Canadian companies, Tumuluri utilised several physical and postal box addresses. They were all temporary, as none were found to be owned by him, his wife or their associated businesses. Ram Tumuluri took over the Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, in March 2010, and in December of the following year, he declared bankruptcy.

The Russia connection

An investigation by American publication American Reporter revealed that Sri Ram Tumuluri’s partner in the Indian Rs28 billion electric buses deal, Thomas-Christan Seitz, is known for close ties with the Kremlin and has worked for the interests of Russia’s feared spy agency KGB - now called the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

Two years ago, Ram Tumuluri’s Causis Group Ltd, registered in England and Wales, won a tender for supplying The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) with 1,400 electric vehicles.

While Causis is registered in the UK, it does not have any operations and is wholly owned by Tumuluri. Its operating entity is the India-registered Causis E-Mobility Pvt Ltd.

The Russian connection of Ram Tumuluri was covered very widely

The Causis scandal

A forensic study by the publication found that Causis acquired a 100% stake in German-registered Eurabus GmbH in September 2021. Eurabus was founded and formerly owned by Thomas-Christan Seitz. Eurabus has previously claimed to be in the process of opening EV factories in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and possibly Tanzania

Causis Group Ltd was incorporated in England and Wales on June 11, 2021, and the company is 100% owned by Jersey-incorporated New Horizons Investments Limited, which in turn is 100% owned by Tumuluri, papers show. Causis Group’s statutory directors are Tumuluri, Peter Knez, Charles Paul Rowan, Thomas-Christian Seitz and Gary Anthony Dugan.

An examination of original German corporate filings reveals that Eurabus GmbH was registered on July 2, 2015. Eurabus GmbH’s initial share capital was €25,000 and was 100% owned by Euracom Group GmbH, a company managed and controlled by Seitz. 
On October 31, 2019, Eurabus GmbH increased its share capital to €1.105 million. On September 30, 2021, Causis Group Ltd acquired a 100% stake in Eurabus GmbH from Euracom Group GmbH.

Seitz grew up in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and attended the infamous Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), where 50% of the graduates are alleged to have gone into the Soviet diplomatic service and 50% into the KGB, said the publication.

A journalist who knew of Seitz and wrote a story about him and his activities in 2008 noted that Seitz graduated from the MGIMO in 1992.

The journalist’s article, entitled “The Russians are Coming” in the daily newspaper Die Welt, described Seitz as associated with two Russian “security foundations” closely linked with Vladimir Putin.

In the article, Seitz is described as “Vice President” of the “Security Academy Waldmünchen” in Bavaria, which was a branch of the “Academy for Legal Order, Security, and Defense Matters” in Moscow. The academy was founded by Vladimir Putin himself. Putin is described as “Member No. 1”.

The article also states that Seitz and the academy were closely connected to an organisation called the “International Counterterrorism Association,” which is also in Moscow. The article notes that that organisation in Germany can be connected to Karlshorst, Berlin, where the KGB had its headquarters.

Exposed in Indian media

Ram Tumuluri’s latest venture, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) project, is a big scandal in the country. 

He signed with the Indian government in October 2021. The project was set to start within two months, but to date, there is no sign of the project making any headway, and Indian authorities have briefed media that Ram Tumuluri has failed to raise funds worth $8 billion to implement the Rs28 billion electric buses deal with the Mumbai authorities.

Indian government sources say: “Causis is using the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Maharashtra Government as a security, but banks are demanding sovereign guarantee from the state government, which has not been approved by the government.

Causis is struggling to arrange debt, and their efforts are ongoing, but it is evident that Causis has so far failed to find any credible lenders. On paper, there are lots of promises, but there is zero delivery so far.”

The Mumbai authority fears that Ram Tumuluri may defraud his investors and business partners as Causis does not have manufacturing or technical capabilities.
According to an article by Indian news outlet The Indian Express, Causis won a tender for supplying The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) with 1,400 electric buses. In October 2021, the Maharashtra state government, in the presence of Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray and Industry Minister Subhash Desai, signed the contract for Rs28 billion ($370,000).  

Maltese news outlet The Shift News reported Tumuluri’s electrical vehicles venture in an article titled “Ram Tumuluri suspected of replicating ‘fraudulent’ Malta VGH model in Mumbai” – a reference to a big health scare scandal in Malta.

Dubai investigation

Tumuluri claims to have two UAE entities, Mount Everest Global Trading and VGH Dubai. Records show he did attempt to raise funding in the UAE for the Malta PPP project, but this was not successful. 

He was facilitated in this through the office and contacts of Mohammed Hanif Shaikh, chairman of the Emirates Holding Group. 

However, after their failures, both companies shut down their operations.

Reports suggest Ram Tumuluri has recently been questioned by the Dubai authorities for using the country as a pad for his corrupt deals. The Dubai government has allegedly acted over intelligence reports from its Western counterparts in taking action against Tumuluri.

Montenegro dealings

Tumuluri secured a Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract in Montenegro, allegedly as a result of corruption coming from the inner circles of the Presidency, according to media reports in the country.

The deal, however, was cancelled when it transpired that he had bribed local politicians. 

Investigations show that several business associates of Ram Tumuluri were accused of questionable business dealings or linked to fraud, misappropriation or stock exchange manipulation.

None of them have a proven track record of significant commercial success, despite their claims to the contrary. 

The modus operandi of Mark Pawley and others matches that of Tumuluri: they all promise their investors lucrative investment opportunities, which, after the first round of investments, are then declared unsuccessful. The investors are left bearing the loss. But Tumuluri et al move on to set up new projects.