Ashwin Mehta: From Harshad Mehta’s brother to Indian lawyer
“One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.” – Thomas Osbert Mordaunt
So too goes the story of Harshad Mehta. From his steep rise to fame till his eventual fall and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, it all happened in the span of just a few years. Akin to a whirlpool, he came, he took the stock market by storm, and then he departed just as abruptly.
If you have already watched the SonyLiv series “Scam 1992”, you are no stranger to the riveting story of the scam that shook the Indian share market. Fondly dubbed as the “Amitabh Bachchan of Dalal Street”, Harshad Mehta revealed certain glaring flaws in the stock market system. After the crash of 1992, the entire structure of the Indian stock market had to be changed. The Securities and Exchange Board of India was formed in its aftermath, with the intention of never allowing such a fraud to occur again.
Now, history has obviously made it clear that even with SEBI, fraudsters will always find a way to commit fraud. But that is another story.
Whenever we talk about the Scam of 1992, all the spotlight is concentrated on Harshad Mehta himself. The sheer brazenness and daring with which the scam was perpetrated steal all the attention.
But we have to remember that when the scam is so large and so complex, there are generally more people involved. There is a complete structure involved here, and the importance of the people behind the mastermind is probably as important as the virtuoso himself. Thus, we come to the subject of the brother of 1992 securities scam kingpin Harshad Mehta, Ashwin Mehta.
This role has been brought to life in “Scam 1992” by the talented writer-director Hemant Kher.
After Sucheta Dalal uncovered the scam and published her report, Harshad Mehta got embroiled in a number of cases and litigations. All his investors lost faith in him and started drawing away. He and his brother Ashwin Mehta were even jailed for a period of three months.
As we know, it is common human nature to flock to winners and run away from trouble. For instance, if you see a gang-fight break out on the street while you’re on your way back home, what would you do?
Would you fight or would you flee?
Apart from the rare good Samaritan, most people would choose the latter option and flee from the scene of the crime.
The aftermath of Sucheta Dalal’s explosive report looks similar. While Harshad was on top of the game, investors and traders flocked to him like moths to a flame. They all wanted a share of his good fortune, of his Midas touch. They loved the fact that he could make money so easily and wanted some of his luck to rub off on them.
The minute his luck turned, and the scam was uncovered, the cards started falling like dominoes. It was during this time that all these fans turned their back on him and abandoned him to the wolves. Among the people who stayed, were his brother Ashwin and his wife, Jyoti.
An approximate number of 600 civil cases were registered against the Mehta family, and about 76 criminal cases. Most of the family’s sizeable assets were seized by the authority and huge tax dues were slapped on the mastermind. It was only after Harshad Mehta met his untimely death in Tihar Jail in 2001 that most of the criminal cases against him were dropped.
It can be argued that Harshad got off easily. He simply orchestrated the deed, and then took his exit after the entire scam had run its course.
Ashwin Mehta, on the other hand, was left to face the music. He got caught up in lengthy legal battles which took the better part of the next two decades to resolve.
According to Sucheta Dalal, “A few days after I broke the first story of the Securities Scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) ham-handedly arrested 13-odd people including Harshad Mehta, his brother Ashwin, several of their employees and a few SBI officials.”
It was only in 2018 that he was finally cleared by a special court. The final charge that was dropped was regarding the SBI fraud.
Of course, he did not get off scot-free. Ashwin Mehta, too, was imprisoned for a short while and had to pay several fines.
As written by Sucheta Dalal, “A bench headed by Justice SB Sinha also sentenced Ashwin and Sudhir Mehta to rigorous imprisonment (RI) for one month and a fine of Rs. 100,000, each.”
Apart from that, he also had to repay an amount of Rs. 1,700 crores in dues to several banks. This amount can be traced back to the original investments provided to Harshad Mehta while he was at the top of his game.
Ashwin Mehta was also charged on another case relating to the diversion of funds from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
According to MoneyLife magazine, “Ashwin Mehta, brother of 'big bull' Harshad Mehta has been sentenced five years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs5 lakh in a case related with the diversion of funds from state-run ONGC Ltd.”
So the question is: Where is Ashwin Mehta today?
Can we still find him haunting the halls of the Bombay Stock Exchange?
Or has he turned over a new leaf?
Today, he is a new man. Gone are the days of the Bombay Stock Exchange and the magnanimity of Harshad. He took full advantage of the fact that he was acquitted of the charges relating to his involvement in the Scam of 1992.
As Sucheta Dalal puts it, ”Interestingly, Ashwin Mehta, who had been co-accused in this case with the late Harshad was acquitted.”
Ashwin is now a qualified lawyer. He regularly handles cases in the Mumbai High Court as well as in the Supreme Court. He now spends his days using the law to win arguments and add excitement to his life. He has come far from the cloud that the Scam 1992 had cast over his entire family.
According to the latest reports, Ashwin Mehta net worth is in the region of Rs. 25-30 crore.
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