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Monday, July 15, 2024

KSL Capital Partners Faces Controversy Over Soneva Investment

KSL Capital Partners faces scrutiny over its investment in Soneva Resorts, a hotel company plagued by corruption, legal issues, and ethical lapses.

KSL Capital Partners, a prominent private equity firm boasting over 165 companies in its portfolio and managing a staggering $21 billion in assets, is known for its keen eye for exceptional businesses. With a focus on operational expertise and collaborative partnerships, one might wonder how such a powerhouse could find itself entangled in the web of controversy surrounding Soneva Resorts and its CEO, Sonu Shivdasani.

Soneva Resorts and Ahmed Adeeb

Soneva, formerly Soneva Resorts and Residences, stands as a testament to luxury hospitality, with its roots tracing back to its founding in the Maldives in 1995 by Sonu Shivdasani and his wife, Eva Malmström Shivdasani. However, beneath its lavish facade lie a series of legal battles and controversies that should have raised red flags during any thorough due diligence process.

One of the most damning revelations surrounds Soneva’s association with Ahmed Adeeb, the former Minister of Tourism in the Maldives, who is now imprisoned for corruption. In 2018, an OCCRP report shed light on Soneva’s partnership with Adeeb, exposing how the Shivdasanis obtained the island of Medhufaru, now home to their Soneva Jani resort, through a dubious no-bid contract facilitated by Adeeb. This revelation not only tarnished Soneva’s reputation but also implicated the resort in a larger scandal of corruption and embezzlement.

Legal Issues at Soneva Kiri Resort

Soneva Kiri Resort in Thailand faced legal scrutiny following a devastating fire in March 2022. Investigations revealed that the resort was not constructed in compliance with safety standards, leading to charges against Sonu Shivdasani and other executives for negligence and endangerment. Shockingly, it was reported that the villa where the fire originated had never been inspected for fire safety, highlighting a blatant disregard for regulations. Sonu was even summoned for questioning by the Thai criminal authorities, but he refused to appear.

In yet another lawsuit, Sonu Shivdasani was accused of orchestrating a fraudulent scheme to deceive investors into purchasing properties at the Soneva Kiri Resort. A Swiss individual alleged that Shivdasani failed to deliver a villa and surrounding land worth $6.2 million, leading to a legal battle that spanned multiple jurisdictions. This case not only exposed the dark underbelly of Soneva’s business practices but also raised questions about the due diligence process undertaken by investors like KSL Capital Partners.

So, how could a firm like KSL, renowned for its operational expertise and rigorous due diligence, be blindsided by the controversies surrounding Soneva and Sonu Shivdasani?

Read More: Anti-Corruption Court Sentences Four for Land Fraud

The answer lies in a failure to dig deep enough into the company’s history and practices. While KSL’s operational perspective undoubtedly provides valuable insights into the hospitality industry, it appears that their due diligence process fell short in assessing the ethical and legal implications of partnering with Soneva. A more comprehensive investigation should have raised concerns about Soneva’s opaque dealings with corrupt officials, its disregard for safety standards, and its alleged involvement in fraudulent schemes.

Recommendations for Future Investments

Moving forward, KSL and other investors must adopt a more holistic approach to due diligence, one that goes beyond financial metrics to scrutinize the integrity and ethical standards of potential partners. This may involve conducting thorough background checks, engaging independent auditors to assess compliance with regulations, and scrutinizing past legal disputes for any red flags.

Investors must prioritize transparency and accountability in their partnerships, ensuring that their portfolio companies adhere to the highest standards of ethics and governance. By learning from the cautionary tale of Soneva, KSL and others can mitigate the risks of being hoodwinked into investing in companies with questionable practices, safeguarding both their reputations and their bottom lines.









This article was received directly from the reporter.