Chapter 3: A web of deceit

Raima Inc. is a very interesting entity. It was registered in Panama, owned by a trust in Guernsey – an English island near the French Coast – but controlled by the Kerkar family.

An offshore leaks website even says that Raima Inc was associated with Mossack Fonseca. Even during a time when there were strict foreign exchange restrictions, Senior Kerkar managed to have a family trust in the UK and hid his assets in plain sight from the government – something that he often boasted to his employees.

We also heard a lot from him about the history of Cox and Kings, and almost always you could sense that the man was quite pride of the strides the company had made. And it was true to some extent; if not for Senior Kerkar’s crafty deeds, or rather misdeeds, Cox and Kings wouldn’t be the brand that we recognize. The lucrative contracts that he secured for Cox and Kings to manage the travel desks at Taj for long periods of time without any competitive bid landed the travel company with high-heeled customers, foreigners and Indians alike, filling up its coffers and giving it a reputation.

The honeymoon ended when Ratan Tata ousted Senior Kerkar from the board; Indian Hotels promptly closed the Cox and Kings contract as Kerkar left the door. Meanwhile, Peter Kerkar played the role of the prince in waiting well; he graduated from Stanford, developed the tact and taste of a hotelier, wined and dined with bankers and the likes, and so on. It was good times for Cox and Kings and the company expanded to Japan.

With consolidation and part monetization in mind, Cox and Kings planned to make a big move – an IPO in India with the Indian company as the holding company – a plan that would soon turn out to be an element of the Kerkars’ web of deceit.

More tomorrow.

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