Economy

Mahtani Accused of Shady Tactics in Radisson Blu Case

For several years on a prominent corner of Lusaka’s Great East Road, a large construction plot languished quietly with large signs promising that a new luxury hotel would be opening soon! But as every scheduled opening date passed and as the delays piled up, many were wondering if the hotel would ever open.

The Radisson Blu did successfully open several years later than planned, and is now well regarded as one of the finest hotels in the city. Now, a recent case in the courts sheds some light on what was causing all those delays: a dramatic fight between a foreign investor and a financier close to President Michael Sata.

The businessman Rajan Mahtani has found himself in court again recently, this time with a lawsuit against Hotellier Ltd, the operator of Lusaka’s Radisson Blu hotel, seeking repayment of millions of dollars of debt.

The most recent finding by Judge Albert Wood, who has a long record of issuing favourable rulings to Mahtani, ordered Hotellier Ltd to repay loans to Finance Bank of some $8.6 million and almost 200,000 kwacha that were loaned to the operator during the construction of the hotel. However, according to the defendants, Mahtani’s Finance Bank had allegedly used unlawful tactics in its dealings with Hotellier Ltd and attempted to force them into defaulting on loans in order to seize control of the property.

According to the defendant’s submission to the court, the account numbers 0014326550012 and 0014526550001 were illegally opened by Mahtani without consent by Hotellier Ltd, and then were loaded up with debt on Mahtani’s orders without approval by Finance Bank’s credit committee.

According to Judge Wood’s decision, Mr Odysseas Mandenakis, a European foreign investor and owner of the Radisson Blu hotel in Lusaka, testified before the court that “he had been led into believing that Dr Rajan Mahtani and Finsbury Investments Limited would source money at low interest rates” without compound interest, while another witness called by the defence highlighted numerous violations by Finance Bank of the Bankers Association of Zambia Code of Banking Practice.

The hotel operators argued before the court that Mahtani had attempted to convince them to construct a third floor to the hotel to make it more profitable, allegedly knowing that such a move would make it impossible for the operator to make payments on the loan. The Radisson Blu owners also allege that Finance Bank deliberately and repeatedly delayed delivery of the loans, which slowed down construction and ballooned the costs of the project.

The court agreed with Hotellier Ltd that Mahtani’s unorthodox banking practices fell afoul with the ethics code: “It is quite clear to me that the plaintiff ignored the basic tenets espoused in the code of conduct,” Judge Wood wrote in his ruling, however he also ruled that the banking code is not “mandatory” and that this is a matter for the Bank of Zambia to address, which is not party to the dispute.

According to an independent legal expert who reviewed the decision, there are likely grounds for the defendant to appeal Judge Wood’s ruling – mainly pointing out that there is an established Supreme Court decision that has established that the banking code is in fact mandatory.

“What is alleged to be happening in this case looks like the classic Mahtani modus operandi,” said a anonymous source with knowledge of the matter. “Lend out money, create conditions so that the borrower can’t service the loan, and seize control of the asset. This would not be possible unless a single person owned the majority shares of the bank – which is precisely why the banking code makes it illegal for a single individual to run a bank alone.”

The Radisson Blu case isn’t the first time that Mahtani has faced accusations of misconduct. In 2010, the Bank of Zambia took over Finance Bank after a report found that Mahtani stood in violation of the banking code by owning up to 56.5% of the bank. He’s also been accused by the owners of the Zambezi Portland Cement (ZPC) company of an illegal corporate raid of the company through forged share transfer documents, while also running into problems with a private hospital project and a ban from banking activities in Malawi (the Reserve Bank of Malawi produced a report finding numerous money laundering concerns with Finance Bank’s operations).

Last year, a video was leaked on YouTube, purporting to show Rajan Mahtani talking openly about “overruling” the banking regulations and using his personal accounts to carry out these maneuvers.

As the defendants in the hotel case make their next move, the foreign investment community will be watching closely to observe the extent of Mahtani’s influence over both the judiciary and the ruling Patriotic Front administration of President Michael Sata.

16 Comments

  1. mwana

    When will this crook go to jail? He is staking from the Zambian people!!

  2. zedian

    mahtani what a thief, he also stole money from the mothers shop in ndola back in the days!! now imagine that and he claims to be a reborn Christian!!

  3. zedian

    anyway mahtani is a thief!!

    • George

      The problem, of course, isn’t just this corrupt businessman, but the PF government itself, which has allowed itself to become a tool for this man to steal from people, destroy the court system, and scare away foreign investment from Zambia. I can understand that when Rupiah’s government took away his bank, they should have handled the sale to First Rand with greater transparency, but really, that is the primary issue – Mahtani must be separated from that bank and must not be allowed to do financing deals in Zambia or else we will see no end to this kind of blatant manipulation and theivery!

  4. Kankuluwe

    This mwenye is a damn crook, a real predator businessman and very hopeless. He deserves to be locked up for a long, long time.

  5. james

    Make no mistake – Rajan Lekraj Mahtani is among the most evil men in Zambia. He once threatened to bring in an armed militia if the PF didn’t win power. He is the root of PF cadre violence!!!

  6. KundaZ

    Do any of you chaps know the nature of the relationship between Mahtani and Judge Wood? It seems like this judge, who worked in the same law firm as the corrupt DPP Nchito, is in charge of issuing every false decision to protect his thieving. LAZ should take action.

  7. Mad wood

    Mahtani is a crook. He steals from his own companies. In childhood he used to steal from his mom’s shop in Ndola. Cannot wait for change of government to give evidence against him for millions he has stolen from the bank, Furncoz, Leasing Finance, Professional Insurance, Building society, Copper Harvest, Chimanga Changa. He and his political prostitutes can enjoy for a year or so, time is coming when Judge Wood will have to account for his messing around with Indian woman of Mahtani’s tribe while his wife was struggling with cancer. He had no time for his wife but had all the time to take Mwenye girlfriend of his to Intercontinental, Johannesburg, London and all over Europe. He was on the payroll of Mahtani as was and are Nchito, Sata, Kabimba and Scott. Radisson belongs to Odys, Zambezi Portland belongs to Ventriglia family and Finsbury Park, belongs to Kavindele, all you stole by the same modus operandi. Kavindele helped you to get the crude oil contract to your fronting company and you refused to pay him 3M dollors, You cut off Charles Mpundu (instead of Chaturvedi paying him 5% of deposit that he gave you from Napsa, your concubine gave him 2%), Mangani was paid 100M Kwacha to get you information on your money laundering, bank shareholding and tax evasion on transfer of shares, dividends and many other. You can hide behind PF snakes but next year we will take you to Kabwata prison for good.

  8. Sichinga

    Leave Dr Mahtani alone! Jealousy is a sin and he is just doing boizness!

  9. Bina Mahtani

    I reconciled with my Husband. Do not remind me his falling for every moving object wearing a skirt. His secretary in Ndoda, his legal counsellor who threw his flowers on his face at BOZ, Ndola office, his other legal counsellor in Lusaka who he tried to implicate after using, his Indian married girlfriend who he used and dumped by merging building society with the bank, his frequenting of Zamsure Garden to mess around with widowed Indian lady, maid in Ndola, messieur at Micahelangelo Johannesburg. I know and bore all this time his infidelity. But I am from his tribe, in fact his first cousin who he married. He messed around, I got even with him. His driver in London was my body pressure. His hands gave me relief and pleasures. He is a gay but his fingers are wonderful. Mahtani, you insulted me, you tormented me and I got even with you. On money laundering, I can add some more. Maureen Mwanawasa was always taken care of by me whenever she was in London. All her shopping was paid by me and in return she made sure my husband got interest free deposits from ZRA, Ministry of Finance. Do you remember, my darling when I caught you in birthday suit under Jany?

  10. Bark at ali

    Sichinga, yours is the only sensible voice on this item. Zambians are a bunch of jealous people. Instead of appreciating thousands of jobs created by Dr, Mahtani we are busy spewing venom, just because he is a successful businessman while most of us utter failure in life.

  11. Bark at ali

    @Sichinga, yours is the only sensible voice on this item. Zambians are a bunch of jealous people. Instead of appreciating thousands of jobs created by Dr, Mahtani we are busy spewing venom, just because he is a successful businessman while most of us utter failure in life.

    • Uncle Ndola

      @Bark at ali – Is that seriously your argument in defence of Mahtani? That’s because he’s rich he gets to break the law? That because he’s “successful” it is OK for him to steal? I don’t have a dog in this fight, but Zambia must be a country of FAIRNESS where everyone must play by the rules! When we have this corrupt criminal running around stealing companies and destroying the courts, it damages all of us!

  12. zambianos

    @ Bina Mahtani please give us more information on the Hotellier and Zambezi Portland Cement scandals, Zambia needs to know the truth on these companies!!

  13. Lacy

    This idiot has bribed Zambian watchdog. Whenever he needs to put concocted stories he calls ZWD, pays cash and ZMW obliges. No comments are allowed by readers. What is Mr. Sata doing about this? ZWD has messed up Zambian government, called names to His excellency and today all diplomacy is thrown out of the window. His excellency shall tell DEC to take ka Mahtani to red bricks to find out who his contact at Zombie Witch dog is? How come his articles are published to defend him and nobody allowed to comment? How much he has been paying them and how does he do that? Today he has insulted Mulenga Sata and implicated him through the article he published in Zombie Witch Dog.

  14. Yvonne

    Like Mahtani his MDs are involved in stealing from the companies. At the company I work for his MD is on the payroll of garages and spending such ill-gotten money on sleeping around with young girls.

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