by Anthony A. Davis
It speaks to Shariff Chandran’s power of persuasion that soon after a man we’ll call S.K. was burned for $320, 000 by the now-infamous team at Wealthstreet and Concrete Equities, S.K. plunked an additional $320, 000 into another real-estate investment group, Platinum Equities, which Chandran founded and controlled as CEO.
Illustration Graham Roumieu
It was virtually all that remained of S.K.’s life savings.
Worse, the network infrastructure engineer with degrees in theoretical physics and geophysics even convinced his son, now 23 and who’d barely survived a car accident, to invest all the auto insurance money he had collected into Platinum. Platinum’s promised annual returns, usually in the range of six to eight percent, weren’t outrageous, he says. Regular stocks, S.K. told himself and his son, “were just too volatile.”
S.K. and his son lost their money when the landlord foreclosed on the mortgages on a Platinum property – a three-storey office building called Deerfoot Court in Calgary’s northeast industrial zone. Chandran has been accused of overpaying the owner, Strategic Group CEO Riaz Mamdani, by million for the building. According to the accusations, the two mortgages had never been approved of by, or disclosed to, investors, and S.K. and many others who sank money into limited partnerships (LPs), which were used to purchase Deerfoot Court with a minimum , 000 buy-in suddenly saw their investments obliterated. It was just one of 20 different properties Platinum offered investors through LPs in a dizzying array of nearly 50 different funds, partnerships and subsidiary investment corporations. “I got screwed by Concrete Equities” S.K. says, “and then I realized that Platinum is as goofy as Concrete, or even worse.” Some 2, 300 investors in Alberta and Western Canada who lost fortunes, retirement funds and life savings in Platinum must be thinking much the same thing.
Now those investors have started fighting back. On September 10, more than 500 disgruntled Platinum investors gathered at Calgary’s Southside Victory Church to mass forces in a class-action lawsuit against Platinum. It was Shariff Chandran who founded Platinum in 2003. He, his wife Jennifer Cherry and his sister Chitra Chandran, both former Platinum directors, are named among the defendants. And there, linked to Shariff Chandran and the Platinum debacle in a 46-page statement of claim by the investors’ law firm, McGuigan Nelson, is the wealthy, enigmatic Calgarian, Riaz Mamdani.
In an email to Alberta Venture, Chandran says he met Mamdani after Platinum was founded in 2003, when he offered to buy a building known as Plaza 14, which was owned by a group of businessmen including Mamdani. Those who have met them say Mamdani and Shariff Chandran were once close friends, two men bent on helping each other attain great wealth. As one Platinum investor put it, Chandran referred to Mamdani as “his mentor and guide.” However Chandran refused to disclose to Alberta Venture the past or current nature of their relationship.