Tuesday, Mar 03rd 2015

Ketan Somaia buys London radio stations

Friday, March 28, 2014 - 00:00 -- BY STAR TEAM
BIG DEAL: Business tycoon Ketan Somaia.Photo/File
BIG DEAL: Business tycoon Ketan Somaia.Photo/File

KENYAN business tycoon Ketan Somaia, who is awaiting fraud trial in the UK, is leading the takeover of London's biggest commercial Asian radio stations.

The news of Somaia's new purchase was reported by UK newspaper, the Guardian on Sunday.

Somaia, whose interests once included hotels, banking, motoring and media, is being prosecuted for fraudulently taking $23 million (Sh1.9 billion) in a series of deals dating back to 1999.

At a trial scheduled to begin this month, he faces 11 counts of obtaining money by deception but the Guardian has learnt that he is playing a leading role in the acquisition of four broadcasting licences formerly owned by the Sunrise Radio group. The purchase is to be made by Lyca Media II.

Somaia's involvement has been flagged to Ofcom, which has a duty to approve every change of ownership, though the media regulator is likely to delay any decision until the case has been heard.

Somaia did not respond to requests for comment by the Guardian.

Lyca Media II international development director Anil Shetty confirmed he had attended a meeting at the Sunrise offices with Somaia on the day of the takeover, but said Somaia has no financial involvement with the venture.

"Mr Somaia acts solely as a consultant to Lyca Media II, in relation to the recent acquisition by Lyca Media II of assets of the former radio business Sunrise, as purchased from administrators Grant Thornton."

Of Indian origin but born in Kenya, Somaia made his fortune in Africa during the 1980s and 1990s from importing cars, owning hotels and securing government contracts.

At its height, his Dolphin business empire was chaired for eight years by Parkinson, a former Tory party chairman. Dolphin twice sponsored the Miss World beauty pageant, with Somaia presiding as a judge.

Its assets included a chain of hotels among them the Treetops Lodge in Kenya, where the young Queen Elizabeth spent her honeymoon.

But by the early 2000s, Somaia had lost control of many of his commercial interests.

His Delphis Bank, acquired from the remnants of the corruption-wrecked Bank of Credit and Commerce International, was wound down in Mauritius, Kenya and Tanzania.

The fraud prosecution is being brought by Murli Mirchandani, an Indian born businessman, who made his first fortune trading between Germany and West Africa and is now based in Dubai.

Between June 1999 and May 2000, Mirchandani says he was persuaded by Somaia to hand over millions of dollars in a series of ten business transactions and loans.