Vivek Doval denies Caravan reporter got in touch with him before publishing ‘The D-Companies’ article

He also said that he was not aware of “any such correspondence” between the reporter and his brother Shaurya Doval prior to the publication of the article.

WrittenBy:Gaurav Sarkar
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The cross-examination of Vivek Doval—son of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval—came to an end today at the Rouse Avenue District Court House Complex.

On January 16, 2019, The Caravan magazine had reported, on the basis of documents sourced from the US, UK, Singapore and the Cayman Islands, that Doval was running a hedge fund—GNY Asia—in the Cayman Islands, which is a well-established tax haven.

Subsequently, on January 21, Doval filed a defamation case against Caravan’s reporter Kaushal Shroff, as well as the magazine’s editor-in-chief Paresh Nath and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. Doval believes they caused “irreparable damage” to his reputation “through calculated insinuations and innuendos“.

Before the last leg of Doval’s cross-examination kicked off at 10 am on Tuesday, the corridor outside court number 203 seemed to be divided into two halves. On one side sat Paresh Nath with Jairam Ramesh, and on the other side was Vivek Doval, casually chatting with his lawyers.

Shroff was the only person sitting inside the courtroom.

At 10 am, both counsels took their respective places in Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Samar Vishal’s court. While Nath and Ramesh sat on the first bench of the gallery, Shroff sat on the second.

Doval, dressed in a pink shirt and red polka-dotted tie, sporting a black blazer and trousers, took his place in the witness box. He remained standing at ease, with his hands behind his back, waiting for the judge to enter.

A funny thing happened right before the proceedings kicked off. The court typist, a chatty middle-aged woman in a red and blue salwar, who was sitting on a desk in front of Doval’s witness box, turned around and told him: “Aapko saza thodi na mili hai; aap baith jao.” Doval laughed and continued standing, waiting for ACMM to enter.

At 10:13 am, ACMM Samar Vishal entered and took his seat.

Advocate Bhavook Chauhan, counsel for Kaushal Shroff, took the floor to cross-examine Vivek Doval.

“Are you aware of an independent international network launched in the area of international tax and financial regulation network, called The Tax Justice Network?” he asked.

“No,” said Doval. 

“I put it to you that in 2019, Tax Justice Network, had ranked Cayman Islands amongst top three corporate tax havens in the world,” said Chauhan.

“No,” replied Doval. “The investors in the GNY Asia Fund were regulated by the most onerous regulators  in the world, including the FATCA Regulation of the USA.”

Chauhan told ACMM Samar Vishal that he would like to show Doval an article.

At this stage, the witness was shown a printout of an article published on the website, wherein Tax Justice Network had ranked Cayman Islands among top three corporate tax havens in the world.

“Have you seen this article?” Chauhan asked him.

“I have not seen this article earlier,” said Doval. “I am seeing it just now.”

Chauhan asked Doval whether he was aware that the Netherlands, in 2018, had placed Cayman Islands on its black list of tax havens. 

Doval paused and thought. “No.” 

Doval was then shown a printout of an article published on the website wherein it was reported that the Netherlands had placed the Cayman Islands on its blacklist of tax havens. 

“Have you come across this article before?” asked Chauhan.

“No I have not,” he replied swiftly. 

Chauhan put a third printout in front of him. It was another article published on July 25, 2017, on the website of The Economic Times wherein the Cayman Islands was referred to as a tax haven. 

“I have not seen this article before,” said Doval. “I have seen it just now.”

“Are you aware that Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the then-Finance Minister in the Government of India, had, on May 8, 2012, during a parliamentary discussion in the 15th Lok Sabha, had also referred to the Cayman Islands as a tax haven?” asked Chauhan. Doval replied in the negative.

He (Doval) then volunteered and said: “Various countries of the world legislate their tax regulations from time to time. A previous article that was shown to me notes that the UK tax regulations allow for investments in the Cayman Islands. Equally, around 60-70 per cent of US corporations also have tax residency in the likes of Cayman Islands, and all these companies are tax compliant with US authorities. Regulations change over time, to account for loopholes, and it would be normal for entities such as corporates and funds to adhere to new regulations. To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen a US, UK, Singapore based regulation which debars the Cayman Islands or specifies these of lower ethical or legal standing.”

At this stage, Doval was shown a printout of debates as available on the official website of Lok Sabha of India.
“I have not seen this document earlier,” he said. 

Chauhan asked him: “Are you aware that in 2017, Cayman Islands was listed on the European Union’s Grey List of Tax Havens?”

“No,” came the response.  

Next, a printout of an article published on December 5, 2017, on the website, wherein it was reported that the EU had listed Cayman Islands on the Grey List of Tax Havens. 

“Have you seen this article”

Doval replied: “I’ve not seen this article before. I have seen it just now.”

He volunteered again and said: “The Fund had already been launched in November 2017. Even the article that was presented to me suggests that Cayman Islands was on the Grey List and not on a Black List. This issue was never escalated to me by my compliance department and our legal advisors. The GNY Asia Fund was fully compliant with all regulations in geographies it operated in and fully committed to adhering with the highest standard when the regulations changed.

Doval’s counsel jokingly asked Chauhan whether he would put all the articles available on the internet, to his client. Chauhan smiled and continued.

He asked Doval whether he was aware that the spokesperson for the European Alliance Group, in the European Parliament, had stated that Cayman Islands would end up being blacklisted by the EU as a tax haven. 

“No,” replied Doval.

He volunteered yet again and said: “In any democratic setup…pressure groups can have their opinions on issues. It would be my reading that the statement mentioned above is not and was not the final official position if the EU. If regulations in the EU had changed, it would have been escalated to me by my compliance department.”

DP Singh, counsel for Doval, raised an objection at this point. However, ACMM Samar Vishal said that the objection would be decided at the time of judgement.

Chauhan showed Doval another article. “I have not seen this article earlier,” said Doval.

He even added, “At the GNY Asia Fund, the compliance department would have looked only at official notifications from the regulators and not sporadic articles printed on various websites.”

“Are you aware that Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organisations networked together in more than 90 countries?” asked Chauhan.

“No,” Doval responded.

“I put it to you that in December 2016, Oxfam had released a report titled ‘Tax Battles’ wherein it had listed Cayman Islands as number 2 on its list of Top 15 corporate tax havens in the world,” said Chauhan.

“It is incorrect,” said Doval.

He once again volunteered: “Oxfam, to the best of my knowledge, is a charity organisation. The mandate of making financial regulations is with organisations like the European Central Bank (ECB), EU Financial Regulator, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) etc.”

Taking note of Doval’s repeated voluntary answers, Advocate DP Singh stood up from his chair and addressed him. “It is not necessary to explain everything…”

Doval was next show a printout stated to be the summary of the report/policy paper titled “Tax Battles” as available on the official website of Oxfam. He said he hadn’t seen it before.  

“Are you aware that the International Monitory Fund is an international organisation consisting of 189 countries, which include the US, UK, India and Singapore as its members?” asked Chauhan.” 

“Yes,” came Doval’s monosyllabic response. 

“Are you aware that IMF is mandated to oversee the interactional monetary and financial system, and to monitor the economy and financial policies of its member countries?” asked Chauhan.


At this stage, Doval was shown a printout stated to be an extract of the compendium of statistics 2017 published by Cayman Islands government as available on the website

He said he had not seen this before.

When Chauhan asked him whether he was aware that more than 1 lakh companies are registered in the Cayman Islands as of date, he replied in the negative. 

“Have you filed any document along with the complaint to show that you had decided on the jurisdiction of Cayman Islands for the registration of GNY Asia Fund on account of the recommendation made by Gordian Capital?” asked Chauhan.

Doval paused before answering.

“Do you want to see your complaint and documents?” ACMM Samar Vishal asked him.

Doval went through the records and then answered: “The selection of Cayman Islands was based on the recommendation of Gordian Capital. We also asked the initial investors as to if they have preferences of the Fund registration in any particular geography. I will be happy to provide an email trail in which we asked our strategic investor whether he has a preference for Singapore, Cayman Islands or any other jurisdiction. He came back saying that he had no particular preference, at which point, we deferred to the advice of Gordian Capital.”

Chauhan told Doval that he had not answered the question put to him.

“No,” replied Doval, in reference to the question asked by Chauhan previously about whether he had filed any document along with his complaint to show that he had decided on the jurisdiction of Cayman Islands for the registration of GNY Asia Fund on account of the recommendation made by Gordian Capital.

At this point (11:28 am), Jairam Ramesh and Paresh Nath exited the courtroom.

Doval brought on record certain email trails between him and a “strategic investor” in support of his argument.

Chauhan asked him: “Can you tell as to who is Mr Altaf, whose name appears in these emails?”

“He is the strategic investor as mentioned in the complainant,” replied Doval adding Mr Altaf was also a director of the GNY Asia Fund.”

“Would it be correct to say that Mr Altaf was not representing Gordian Capital?”

“Yes, Mr Altaf was not representing….,” said Doval.

“I put it to you that the emails do not reflect/show any recommendation having been made from Gordian Capital for registration of Fund on Cayman Islands,” said Chauhan.

Doval stood his ground. “Whilst in these emails, there is no explicit recommendation by Gordian Capital, it was actively involved in proposing and creating the GNY Asia Fund in the Cayman Islands. The proposal of DMS (Director Management Services) made to Mark Voumard, CEO of Gordian Capital, filed in the complaint also includes the details of Mr Don W Ebanks who resides in the Cayman Islands. This illustrates the point that Gordian Capital was actively involved in recommending Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction for GNY Asia Fund.”

Chauhan smirked. “I appreciate your answer, but the question was different. This answer doesn’t pertain the question at all. You have said everything but answer the question put to you.”

The court broke for a quick ten-minute break and then resumed proceedings. Chauhan made a flurry of suggestions in reference to the Caravan article penned by Shroff and titled “The D-Companies.”

Chauhan made one more suggestion. “I do not know if different people have applied for the trademark for ‘D company’ with the Government of India, for carrying out business activities.”

Doval sternly replied: “This is not my narration. This is putting words into my mouth. I am not happy with that.” 

He further said: “This is changing the point…change the question…I am not happy with it.”

Chauhan pursued a different line of questioning. 

“Are you aware that Revathi Pandit & Renuka Bhide worked for Edelweiss Custodian Services Ltd?,” he asked Doval.

“No, I am not aware.”

Chauhan further asked him: “Are you aware that Kaushal Shroff had sent an email dated January 14, 2019, as well as a follow up email dated January 15, 2019, to Revathi Pandit and Renuka Bhide at Edelweiss Custodian Services Ltd, seeking clarifications regarding GNY Asia Fund prior to publication of the article exhibit CW1/8?”

“No,” replied Doval. 

“Is it correct that on January 12 2019, you received a message from Kaushal Shroff via Facebook Messenger, wherein he introduced himself and the name of the media outlet he was working for?” asked Chauhan.

Doval replied: “It is incorrect that I received any message on January 12, 2019, regarding the printing of this article prior to its print on January 16, 2019, or any other message from Mr Kaushal Shroff on Facebook messenger.”

Chauhan pointed out that the question he asked was different. “I didn’t say anything about the article…,” he said. 

Chauhan continued: “I put it to you that on January 12, 2019, Kaushal Shroff had sent you a detailed questionnaire on Facebook Messenger, seeking your responses to the facts stated that were later published in the (Caravan) article.”

Doval denied that Shroff had contacted him prior to publishing of the article. “I did not receive any messages, either on way of an email or a telephone call or a personal appointment, from Mr Shroff. Following the printing of the article, where it was stated that Mr Shroff had tried to get in touch with me in the lead up to the article, I checked through my personal and professional email accounts. After a few days of the article getting printed, I saw a random message on Facebook Messenger which was not from a friend and hence was not on my web page. There was a Messenger communication from Mr Shroff which had some questions. The Messenger communication is in one part of Facebook which, if one had never used it, he would not know where to access it.”

“Can you tell as to after how many days after the publication of the article, did you come across the message communication from Mr Shroff on FB Messenger?” asked Chauhan.

Doval replied: “I would estimate that it was perhaps during the last week of January.”

“Would that mean that you came across the said message from Mr Shroff on Facebook Messenger after filing of your complaint on January 21, 2019?”

Doval asked to have a look at his complaint, but Chauhan said: “No, you have to tell from your memory.”

Doval continued: “I think at the time of the complaint, I had already accessed the message/ list of questions from Mr Shroff, and that was reflected in the complaint, so to be clear, the message from Mr Shroff was received by me after the publication of the article in late January.”

Chauan further asked: “Would it be correct to say that at the time of filing the complainant, you were aware that Mr Kaushal Shroff had sent you questionnaire on Facebook Messenger?  

“Yes,” replied Doval. He then said that the message “subsequently disappeared as well,” but then retracted it and let his final response be just “yes.”

Chauhan now shifted the focus towards Vivek Doval’s brother, Shaurya Doval.

“Is it correct that on January 12, 2019, your brother Mr Shaurya Doval received an email on his email ID from Kaushal Shroff?” he asked.

“I am not aware of any such correspondence,” said Doval, as he sipped on some water.

“I put it to you that Kaushal Shroff had sent a detailed questionnaire to your brother Mr Shaurya Doval on his email,” said Chauhan. Doval said he was not aware of it.

Chauhan made a suggestion. “It is wrong to suggest that I have deposed falsely on the aforesaid aspect.” He then drew Doval’s attention to paragraph 14 of the complaint filed by him.

Chauhan confronted Doval with the complaint filed by him, in which it was stated that on January 12, 2019, the questionnaire was sent to his older brother Shaurya Doval on his email ID.

“Shaurya had actually told me that he had received some kind of email about this…that was the extent,” replied Doval. 

Chauhan went on to fire a quick succession of questions. 

“I put it to you that on January 14, 2019, Kaushal Shroff hand-delivered a copy of the questionnaire to Miss Kashish Juneja, Executive Assistant to Mr Shaurya Doval, at his office in Noida. Are you aware of this?”

“I am not,” replied Doval. 

“I put it to you that Mr Shaurya Doval, even after having received the questionnaire through email on Jan 12, 2019, and by hand on January 14, 2019, did not reach out to Kaushal Shroff and offer his responses to the questions,” said Chauhan. 

Doval replied: “I am not aware of it. My brother and I are two different people, working out of different geographies. Some weeks, I don’t even get a chance to speak to him…”

Chauhan made a suggestion. “It is wrong to suggest that I had accessed the message from Kaushal Shroff on Facebook Messenger on January 12, 2019 itself.”

Next, Chauhan confronted  Doval with several parts of the chief statement he had recorded on May 27, 2019. He read one such part out loud: “I was on a work trip to Doha, Qatar on January 16, 2019, when I got a call from my brother that a story in Caravan…had been pieced together to give a misleading picture…was called to Delhi immediately..”

Chauhan asked Doval whether he had stated these same facts in his complaint as well.

“No,” replied Doval. “But I have mentioned in the complaint that my my career and reputation have been tarnished by the article in the press conference. There were various friends who had inquired orally and telephonically about the correctness of the allegations and showed their dismay. Some persons buying into the insinuations even expressed their anguish, and blamed the complainant to have blemished the name and goodwill of his family, by his wrongdoings in respect of his business venture.”

Chauhan made a suggestion. “It is wrong to suggest that the aforesaid portions are false and an afterthought.”

After this, Chauhan went on to question Doval of the certificate he had obtained under section 65 (B) of the Indian Evidence Act.

“Is it correct that in the certificate, you have not mentioned particulars of the computer used by you?”

“It is correct,” replied Doval.

He volunteered: “I took the printout from my computer.”

“Is it correct that you have not mentioned in the certificate, URLs of the websites from which you have taken printouts?” asked Chauhan.

“It is correct,” replied Doval. 

“Is it correct that you have not mentioned in the certificate that your computer was in working condition?,” asked Chauhan. 

Doval smiled and replied: “Yes.”

Chauhan made a suggestion. “It is wrong to suggest that the certificate does not comply with the provisions of Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act.”

He then went on to make a barrage of suggestions in reference to the article penned by Shroff. 

“It is wrong to suggest that the (Caravan) article makes no inference or innuendo that my family and I were involved in illegal activities such as money laundering, round-tripping of capital, had advanced knowledge of demonetisation, were violating Indian and international financial regulations, untaxed black money or international terrorism. It is wrong to suggest that the aforesaid allegations regarding the article are a figment of my imagination. It is wrong to suggest that the inferences that I have drawn from the article, as stated in my examination in chief, cannot be deduced on a plain reading of the said article. It is wrong to suggest that there was no innuendo in the article that I was associated with the Paradise Papers. It is wrong to suggest that the article does not connect me to Paradise Papers, but it only connects Mr Don W Ebanks to the Paradise Papers. It is wrong to suggest that I have purposely misread the article and its contents in order to file a false defamation case against the accused number two and three. It is wrong to suggest that the article does not even implicitly mention that GNY Asia Fund had a FDI license in India. It is wrong to suggest that the article did not put any blot on my career and professional standing. It is wrong to suggest that the article did not lower my reputation amongst my friends, family, colleagues, professional circles etc. It is wrong to suggest that the article didn’t lower the reputation of my family.”

“Mr Doval, let me ask you a question,” said Chauhan dramatically. “Is it correct that in June 2019, your father was again appointed as NSA of the country, and was for the first, also given a cabinet rank with a five year term?”

“I believe it is correct, yes,” replied Doval.

Chauhan concluded his cross-examination with another barrage of suggestions.

“It is wrong to suggest that the winding up of GNY Asia Fund is not connected to the (Caravan) article. It is wrong to suggest that all the facts stated in the article are correct. It is wrong to suggest that my complaint is based on wrong and baseless inferences and surmises not supported by factual structure of the article. It is wrong to suggest that the article was written to show the contradiction between the public stand taken by my father with respect to offshore tax havens and my setting up of a Hedge fund at the Cayman Islands. It’s wrong to suggest that the article is based on verifiable facts and that the said facts are irrefutable. It is wrong to suggest that the complaint has been filed with the ulterior motive of suppressing the voice of an independent media organisation. It is wrong to suggest that the article represents the truth, was published in good faith, in public interest and for public good. It is wrong to suggest that you have deposed falsely.”

With this, Vivek Doval’s cross-examination by Advocate Bhavook Chauhan, came to an end.

Since the concerned lawyer, Maulshree Pathak, representing Paresh Nath, was not present in the room at the time, Chauhan offered to conduct a quick cross-examination on her behalf as well.

“Are you aware that Mr Paresh Nath does not interact with the editorial team of Caravan magazine?,” asked Chauhan.

Doval replied: “Having been an equity research analyst and publishing several reports, I know that any documentation that leaves a credible organisation undergoes several levels of editorial checks for facts and compliance. In my days in equity research, being exceptionally busy and/or holding several responsibilities is no alibi of printing misleading pieces of research. I would expect the same to be true in the Caravan magazine. Every organisation needs to have systems , processes and controls to handle these challenging situations.” 

“Would it be correct to say that you do not have personal knowledge of the working of Caravan magazine?,” rephrased Chauhan. 

“It is correct,” replied Doval. 

“I put it to you that your answer about Mr Paresh Bath’s interaction with the editorial team of Caravan magazine is based upon assumptions, conjectures, and surmises,” said Chauhan.

“My answer was based on my experience regarding the working of credible publishing organisations,” said Doval. “If the senior management of publishing houses is not responsible for what their journalists write, then who else could be held responsible?”

At this point, the court typist said she was tired and requested to take a short break. An amused Chauhan assured her that there were only five questions left, and went on conclude the cross examination quickly. 

Two more witnesses in the case, Amit Sharma and Nikhil Kapoor, will be cross-examined on October 14 and October 17. 


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