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Most frequently clicked face at temple auctions is a fraud

A stockbroker by profession, Pradeep Bhavnani is better known for his largesse and flamboyant displays of it at Ganpati temples and pandals in the city. But going by what Bandra-based businessman Dwarka Hiranandani and temple authorities say, this facade of generosity is merely a front for fraudulent business methods and unfulfilled promises. The latter has even lodged an FIR against the philanthropist under Section 420 (cheating) of the IPC.

Siddhivinayak auction, necklaces
One of the necklaces he bid for at the Siddhivinayak auction in March. File pics

Gold football, Lalbaugcha Raja auction

Lalbaugcha Raja auction, Gold Modak
Charity cheat: Bhavnani poses with the gold football and modak that he won the bid for, at the Lalbaugcha Raja auction in October this year.

Bhavnani, who has often made it to the headlines thanks to his more-than generous spiritual offerings, had recently even spoken of buying a 24.9 per cent stake in Kingfisher Airlines, and his equally grandiose plans of purchasing Mahatma Gandhi’s house in South Africa.

March 5, 2012

March 12, 2012

October 8, 2012

July 30, 2009

At the annual Lalbaugcha Raja auction this year, Bhavnani bid a staggering Rs 65 lakh for gold moulded in the shape of modak, a lotus and a football. Rajendra Lanjwal, treasurer of Lalbaugcha Raja, said, “This year he bid Rs 65 lakh for gold valuables. But after posing for photographs in front of the media, he never came back to pay for the gold valuables. The gold valuables are still with us. We tried calling him several times, but he never replied.”

In an auction held in March this year at Siddhivinayak temple, Bhavnani had called the press, where he ‘bought’ gold valuables worth Rs 10 lakh and promised to return it to the temple as donation (‘Devotee buys gold at auction, donates it back’ March 5, 2012, MiD DAY).

Satish Mali, deputy executive officer of the Temple Trust, said, “In front of the press, Bhavnani had promised to donate the gold for a better cause, but after the auction he did not even come to purchase the gold. The gold ornament was with us for a long time. After repeated calls, he finally came and paid for the gold ornaments.”

Hiranandani’s story is equally damning. A few weeks ago, the businessman filed an FIR against Bhavnani in a cheating case at Khar police station, alleging that the latter owes him Rs 5 lakh. The 56-year-old resident of Bandra (West) said, “In 2006 I met Bhavnani through a relative. We met several times after that and I even visited his office. I saw several photographs of him with influential people. I was impressed with his lifestyle and his communications skills.”

In 2006, Bhavnani called Hiranandani with the offer that he could buy 10,000 shares of his company would get double returns in a month’s time. Hiranandani said, “He told me that I had to pay Rs 5,25,500 to get double. Since I was acquainted with him, I readily paid him the money by cheque. It was delivered to him the next day, but since then, I have never received a single rupee.”

After this, Hiranandani approached him several times asking for his money back, but to no avail. In January this year, Hiranandani approached Khar police. Based on his complaint, Bhavnani was called to the station and his statement was taken in which he gave the assurance that he would return the money in a few months time. This too never happened.

Hiranandani said, “In recent times, I have seen him bidding for Kingfisher, buying costly gold ornaments from temples. I want people to be aware that Bhavnani is a fraud and a cheat. He has so much money for all this publicity but no money to pay his dues.”

Senior Police Inspector Mangesh Pote of Khar police station said, “A case has been registered against Bhavnani under Section 420 of the IPC. The matter is under investigation and I cannot disclose any further details.”

Hiranandani added, “Two months back I called him and asked about my money and my plans of filing a criminal case against him. He replied, ‘You don’t know who I am, and how big my contacts are. You now will be in big trouble’. But I don’t fear such threats from him.”

Bhavnani could not be reached for comment on either his personal numbers or his many office telephone numbers. 

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