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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Please save my husband: Jailed Atlas Ramachandran's wife makes desperate plea

In her first-ever media interview, Indira opened up about her fears, hardships and desperate fight to get her husband out of jail.

It is a lone battle for Indira Ramachandran to secure the release of her jailed husband M.M. Ramachandran, founder of Atlas Jewellery.

The 75-year-old gold tycoon from Kerala, India, Ramachandran - who is popularly known as Atlas Ramachandran - was arrested in Dubai on August 23, 2015, in cases related to bounced cheques and has been languishing in jail since then.

"He has been in jail for 21 months now, and his health is fast deteriorating. Last week he was taken to hospital on a wheelchair. I too have health issues. I feel lonely and helpless," Indira, 68, told Khaleej Times.

In her first-ever media interview, Indira opened up about her fears, hardships and desperate fight to get her husband out of jail.

"I am living in constant fear of getting jailed as some banks have initiated civil proceedings against me, too. I don't even have a steady income to pay my rents. But I have to keep fighting to make sure my husband will soon walk out a free man," said Indira, who is staying in an apartment in Dubai.

Comfort to chaos
A homemaker who was never involved in any of her husband's businesses, Indira's comfortable life took a chaotic turn when Ramachandran landed in jail in 2015 for not honouring security cheques worth Dh34 million.

"When security officials took him, I thought he would be back in a few hours. I had no clue my life's biggest tragedy was unfolding," said Indira.

As news of his arrest spread, what ensued was utter chaos. More banks deposited security cheques, and aggressively pressed charges against Ramachandran for defaulting on payments. The business tycoon - who had previously lost everything in the 1990 Kuwait War and rebuilt his business empire in Dubai - was soon embroiled in a legal deadlock.

"Banks were threatening me with arrest. Some people were asking for millions to help. I was physically and mentally broken and did not know what to do or whom to call.

"Our employees were clamouring for money. One day, dozens of them walked into my apartment and refused to leave till their dues were paid. And obviously, without Ramachandran around, many played foul. Diamonds worth Dh5 million in our showrooms were sold for just Dh1.5 million and all the pending dues - including incentives of 200 salesmen and other staff - were settled," said Indira.


Dealing with debts
Indira's real troubles were yet to begin as Ramachandran owed millions to banks, and with her husband in jail, she was responsible for clearing the financial mess. The existing assets could not be liquidated.

But she did not have much to count on. Atlas Group, which reportedly had an annual turnover of Dh3.5 billion, had collapsed like a house of cards. Shutters were down on all his 19 gold showrooms in the UAE. Businesses at their showrooms in other Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Doha and Muscat got adversely affected due to cash crunch.

And to make matters worse, Ramachandran's daughter and son-in-law also got arrested over financial issues not related to Atlas Jewellery. "That was a bigger tragedy. And I had to deal with it all on my own."

Daring to hope
But despite all the setbacks, Indira said she was still hopeful her husband would come out soon. She said they were able to sell two hospitals in Muscat and used the Dh35 million to make temporary settlements with the banks.

According to her, 19 of the 22 lending banks have so far signed a standstill agreement by which all legal proceedings have been put on hold against Ramachandran and a new repayment deal negotiated.

"Only three banks are refusing to budge. I am knocking on all doors to get them agree to sign the standstill agreement, so that Ramachandran can be released with immediate effect.

"He is an honest man and had enjoyed immense goodwill in the market for the last three decades. But being held in prison, he is unable to talk to the prospective buyers to liquidate the assets and pay back debts," said Indira. "It is my earnest wish he be given a humanitarian consideration.

"Meanwhile, if I also get into a legal soup before his release, we are hitting a dead-end, with no solution at hand," said a desperate Indira.

(Source: Khaleej Times)

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