Washington, DC - A former member of the board of directors of a publicly traded healthcare services company was arrested at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport for allegedly participating in a wide-spread scheme to defraud investors and others out of hundreds of millions of dollars in connection with a merger transaction designed to convert the company into a private entity, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito for the District of New Jersey announced.
Pavandeep Bakhshi, 41, of the United Kingdom, is charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. Bakhshi was arrested Saturday evening at JFK Airport after arriving on a flight from London. Bakhshi’s initial court appearance is today at 2:30 p.m. EST before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre for the District of New Jersey.
According to the complaint unsealed this weekend:
From May 2015 through September 2017, Bakhshi and co-conspirators Parmjit Parmar, aka “Paul Parmar” (“Parmar”), Sotirios Zaharis, aka “Sam Zaharis” (“Zaharis”), and Ravi Chivukula (“Chivukula”), allegedly orchestrated an elaborate scheme to defraud a private investment firm and others out of hundreds of millions of dollars in connection with the funding of a transaction to take private a healthcare services company (Company A) traded publicly on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market. To fund the transaction, the private investment firm put up $82 million and a consortium of financial institutions put up another $130 million. The scheme allegedly utilized fraudulent methods to grossly inflate the value of Company A and trick others into believing that Company A was worth substantially more than its actual value.
The complaint alleges that to present a positive picture of the company’s financial wealth, the conspirators allegedly sought to raise tens of millions of dollars in the public markets, purportedly to fund Company A’s acquisitions of various operating subsidiaries. In reality, the complaint alleges, a number of those entities either did not exist or had only a fraction of the operating income attributed to them. The conspirators allegedly funneled the proceeds of these secondary offerings through bank accounts they controlled and used the money for a variety of purposes that had nothing to do with acquiring the purported targets. The money from one of the offerings was instead used to make it appear as if the operating subsidiary had substantial customer revenue when, in fact, the funds were simply transfers of the money that had been raised in the secondary offering, the complaint alleges. The conspirators allegedly went to great lengths to make it appear that these funds were revenue, concocting phony customers and altering bank statements to make it appear as if the funds were coming from customers.
The conspirators allegedly:
- Created fictitious operating companies that Company A purportedly acquired in sham acquisitions;
- Falsified and fabricated bank records of subsidiary entities in order to generate a phony picture of Company A’s revenue streams;
- Generated fake income streams and phony customers of Company A and its subsidiaries; and
- Made material misrepresentations and omissions to the private investment firm and others.
The defendants’ alleged actions caused the private investment firm and others to value Company A at more than $300 million for purposes of financing the transaction to take the company private.
The alleged scheme was uncovered around September 2017, when the conspirators resigned from their positions with Company A or were terminated. On March 16, Company A and numerous of its affiliated entities filed for bankruptcy, attributing the company’s financial demise, in large part, to the fraud scheme.
The United States filed a criminal complaint against Parmar, Zaharis and Chivukula on May 16 for their alleged roles in the scheme. Zaharis and Chivukula currently are fugitives. The United States also filed a separate civil complaint on the same date seeking forfeiture of four properties that Parmar owns or controls, including a house in Colts Neck and three apartments in New York City. Separately, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint on May 16 against Parmar, Zaharis and Chivukula.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s New York Regional Office provided assistance in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Chief Paul A. Murphy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas P. Grippo of the Economic Crimes Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Devlin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Asset Recovery Money Laundering Unit and Trial Attorney Leslie Lehnert of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section,.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.