Investment scheme leaves families $60 million out of pocket

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Kris Agrawal was the go-to advisor for many in his orbit. When Yogita Patel needed a home loan, fellow temple-goers encouraged her to seek his help. He was Rajeev Kumar’s mortgage broker, financial advisor and accountant. Others turned to him to help build their dream home.

Three years ago, Mr Agrawal began developing properties, offering his friends and loyal clients enticing returns on investment in his projects across western Sydney.

More than 150 mum and dad investors sunk almost $60 million into the scheme – money they fear they may never see again after the shocking collapse of several companies connected to Mr Agrawal and his wife Shashi.

“It’s gone, my money is gone,” Mrs Patel said.

“I don’t think … it’s coming back.

“Everything is messed up.”

Mrs Patel has been her family’s sole earner since her husband was brutally bashed in 2010, an attack that left him with a severe brain injury and unable to work. She had her own health issues and was worried for her family’s future when Mr Agrawal – her financial advisor of about a decade – suggested she invest in a housing project at Castle Hill.

“He told me I will pay you back 12 per cent interest a year, and at the moment, whatever I’m earning, I would get double than that,” she said.

“So I just trust him.”

Mrs Patel received some interest on her initial investment, but she cries as she recalls the company’s demise. It went into voluntary administration in June.

“I got the email and I told him in my language, ‘Did you lose all my money?’ and he said, ‘Yes,'” Mrs Patel told 7.30.

“I was so shocked I just literally drop on the floor.”

Money loaned through web of companies

The Agrawals sit at the top of a complex web of companies and trusts, many of which have gone into voluntary administration or liquidation.

Olvera Advisory principal Mirzan Mansoor has been appointed external administrator of five of the companies. Key among them is Mansa Sons, which was effectively the fundraising arm for the couple’s planned property projects.

Mr Mansoor explained money loaned to Mansa Sons by people like Mrs Patel was then on-loaned to a network of companies responsible for property purchase, construction or development.

“It’s a very complex scheme,” Mr Mansoor told 7.30. “We’re working to understand… where the destination of these funds are.”

A series of WhatsApp messages, seen by 7.30, showed Mr Agrawal requesting large sums of money from various contacts earlier this year.

“Have you transferred $200K,” he said in March.

In another message from April, Mr Agrawal urged an investor to make a deposit into a Mansa Sons account.

“Saheb — $170K or more transfer karo in Mansa,” he said.

Two weeks later, another request: “I need money urgently, can you transfer into SMSF [self-managed super fund] and transfer to me please.”

Administrator Mr Mansoor said his team was working “around the clock” to try to recover funds for creditors.

Mansa Sons does not itself hold any property, but several other asset-holding companies connected to the Agrawals have been handed over to other administrators. They’ve identified at least 12 properties across Sydney’s west and north-west linked with Mr and Mrs Agrawal’s network of companies.

“At this stage, we aren’t able to give…the quantification of the return and the timeline as to when the funds can be recovered,” Mr Mansoor said.

“I understand it’s a very stressful situation for [investors and] their families … but please be rest assured that we will be doing our very best.”

Administrator Cathro and Partners, which is overseeing three more companies connected to the Agrawals, has identified an additional $44.4 million in debts – about half of which is owed to everyday investors. It brings the couple’s total debts to more than $80 million.

ASIC investigation underway

Mr Mansoor confirmed he had submitted a confidential report about Mr and Mrs Agrawal’s network of companies to the corporate regulator, ASIC.

An ASIC spokesperson said the agency was investigating the matter.

“While ASIC can’t go into detail about specific complaints we have received, we can confirm that this matter involves persons and entities of interest to ASIC,” the spokesperson said.

“We have commenced a formal investigation, which remains ongoing.”

For creditors, action can’t come soon enough.

Rajeev Kumar saw Mr Agrawal like a brother. The pair met in 2014 when Mr Kumar needed a mortgage broker, then Mr Agrawal became his financial advisor and accountant. Their families spent time together, including a dinner at Mr Kumar’s home when Mr Agrawal’s parents visited from India.

In late 2020, Mr Agrawal encouraged Mr Kumar to buy into his developments, citing strong returns for past investors.

Mr Kumar estimates he invested more than $1 million in the scheme. He told 7.30 he and his wife have nothing left in their superannuation fund.

“My message to Kris is, you have to pay our money back,” he said.

“We need our money back — everyone.”

Mr and Mrs Agrawal did not respond to calls, texts or emails from 7.30. The property listed as their business address has been put on the market for sale.

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(Original ABC Article)