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‘Developer’ who duped estate agents into helping him take millions from investors faces jail

Sanjiv Varma took £50,000 each from hundreds of investors for a student accommodation development at a site he did not own or have planning permission for.

Nigel Lewis


A businessman who duped several leading estate agents in Bristol into helping him swindle over £9.3 million from student property investors is to finally face prison following a court hearing in London.

Sanjiv Varma faces jail after being found in contempt of court following a long saga that started three years when he took deposits of £50,00 for approximately 140 student flats in Bristol despite not owning the building in which they were to be built or having planning permission to convert it into residential use.

Varma had told both investors and the many Bristol estate agents who marketed the properties that he owned the derelict Grosvenor Hotel (pictured) near Temple Meads station, but when he failed to gain retrospective planning permission, his scheme collapsed.

But rather than banking the investors’ money Varma, who is a resident of Dubai, spent most of the cash on a lavish lifestyle in St Tropez, Paris, Moscow and London including spending significant sums in Harrods and Selfridges.

Jewels and diamonds

He is said to have spent £5 million on jewels and diamonds and given his son £2 million to buy a luxury apartment in Mayfair.

When investigators caught up with Varma he gave a series of improbable excuses to cover his tracks, and was extremely evasive.

But although he has yet to face prosecution for spending the investors cash, he has been found in contempt of court for lying at several previous hearings brought by liquidators and is now facing a strech in prison when sentencing takes place in September.

July 15, 2020

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