Abuse, Black Magic & Art Fraud: How A Socialite Couple Divorces
Socialite couple Poonam Bhagat and Jaidev Shroff are in the middle of an increasingly dramatic, messy and vicious divorce settlement case. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>/Liju Joseph)
Socialite couple Poonam Bhagat and Jaidev Shroff are in the middle of an increasingly dramatic, messy and vicious divorce settlement case. (Photo: The Quint/Liju Joseph)

Abuse, Black Magic & Art Fraud: How A Socialite Couple Divorces

Just when we’re beginning to see some clarity in the murky and twisted Sheena Bora murder case, another messy case between a socialite couple in Mumbai has slowly been building up. Art patron Poonam Bhagat, and industrialist husband Jaidev Shroff are in the throes of very serious, criminal and even fantastical allegations made by each other, as they traverse through their divorce proceedings.

As allegations become increasingly dramatic and the high-profile criminal case reaches its crescendo, here’s what has transpired so far.

A Brief Background

Jaidev Shroff is the Executive Director for United Phosphorus Limited (UPL), the 4th largest agrochemical company in the world. He was married to Poonam Bhagat, socialite and art patron for the last decade, until October 2015, when he filed for divorce on grounds of ‘cruelty’ towards him and his two daughters with his first wife Romila. He met Bhagat in 2000, when he was in the midst of divorce proceedings with Romila because of her alleged involvement with a Dubai-based businessman. Shroff and Bhagat, both residents of Pali Hill since they were children, were married in 2005.

Poonam Bhagat and husband, Jaidev Shroff together during happier days. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/ETPanache/status/746259179510202368">ET Panache</a>)&nbsp;
Poonam Bhagat and husband, Jaidev Shroff together during happier days. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/ET Panache

While they were married, Shroff and Bhagat happily dominated page 3 circles in Mumbai with her picking, negotiating and finalising multi-crore art pieces for his multi-crore company’s office in Bandra (East).

Until now.

Rounds of Increasingly Serious Allegations Fired

April 4, 2016: Shroff files a First Information (FIR) at the Khar police station alleging that Bhagat performed black magic on him, by poisoning him with a ‘magic potion’ (obtained from a ‘Bengali baba’) in a glass of orange juice she offered to him (Section 328 of the Indian Penal Code).

Within two days, the baba was arrested and a confession was on the table.

April 16, 2016: Shroff submits audio and video proof of Bhagat’s cruelties, including a CD with Bhagat’s conversation with the baba at the first hearing of his FIR in Bandra’s Family Court. He posts an urgent interim plea with the court, asking them to ban Bhagat from entering their posh Pali Hill home.

April 20, 2016: Bhagat, meanwhile, files for an anticipatory bail (ABA) against these charges, and responds with another application filled with her allegations. According to Bhagat, Shroff’s allegations of poisoning him were false.

As of April 27, the police had arrested Sufi, summoned Bhagat and her mother to file their defense, and submitted the CD with their conversation in court- without as much as collecting the glass in which Shroff was allegedly poisoning. 

It gets murkier.

In her ABA application, Bhagat accused Shroff of domestic abuse (27 instances) for eleven years; she says he started beating her up within six months of their marriage.

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  • On one occasion, Bhagat accuses Shroff of beating her up and “giving her a black eye, and (breaking) her tooth by stuffing a mobile phone down her throat.”
  • In December 2006, Shroff allegedly pushed Bhagat against a wall and grabbed her by the throat when she couldn’t find a costume for his daughter from his earlier marriage for a concert.
  • In 2008, Bhagat - then, pregnant- confronted Shroff about taking a former girlfriend to a family event. Bhagat alleges she was slapped, pushed to the ground and kicked, which resulted in a miscarriage.
  • In November 2014, when Bhagat found out about Shroff’s affair with Ukranian model Natalia Kapchuk and confronted him, he beat her up and “broke her index finger.”
Natalia Kapchuk, posing for a photoshoot at Cannes this year. Kapchuk is an Ukranian TV presenter, actress, model, businesswoman and socialite. She stars in her debut and arguably flop movie <i>Dilliwalli Zalim Girlfriend</i>.  (Photo courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/consortnews/status/729952900273709056?lang=en">Consort</a>)
Natalia Kapchuk, posing for a photoshoot at Cannes this year. Kapchuk is an Ukranian TV presenter, actress, model, businesswoman and socialite. She stars in her debut and arguably flop movie Dilliwalli Zalim Girlfriend. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/Consort)
Bhagat’s application mentions Shroff ‘siphoning off’ money from Nirlon Ltd - a public listed company. Her mother got him appointed as a Director in the company as her (mother’s) nominee.

April 22, 2016: The family court issues an order banning Bhagat’s entry into her Pali Hill residence.

High-Society Art Fraud Added To The Case

June 9, 2016: Bhagat moves the Bombay High Court with an appeal against the order of the family court banning her entry into her Pali Hill residence.

June 10, 2016: A director at UPL, Kishore Chandiramani, files a case against Bhagat (a director in the company) for cheating and criminal breach of trust in handling a four crore art installation of a tree made by Subodh Gupta. He alleges that Bhagat colluded with Gupta, and two art dealers Peter Nagy and Aprajita Jain, an official at the Delhi-based Nature Morte Art Ltd, the art firm that deals with Gupta’s work. While Nature Morte was willing to sell the installation at 3.75 lakh, the price was inflated at the behest of Bhagat to Rs 4 crore, who siphoned off the extra as commission. This complaint was filed along with a transcript of a conversation between Bhagat and Jain, finalising the art deal.

Poonam’s sister was also accused of stealing art worth Rs 100 Crore from her husband, Atulya Mafatlal’s company, during a bitter divorce. Recently, she took forceful possession of her mother’s bungalow in Pali Hill with bouncers in tow. Later she alleged that Poonam had locked her in the house and had assaulted her.

June 21, 2016: The Bombay High Court allows Bhagat to collect her jewellery, clothes, passport and documents from her house in Pali Hill within a three-hour window.

June 22, 2016: Poonam Bhagat visits her house in Pali Hill, only to leave in fifteen minutes, claiming that her possessions were messed up and her jewellery missing.

So until now, we have a divorce case between an alleged domestic abuser and adulterer, and an art fraud who her husband claims practices black magic. Her sister has also been alleged as an art fraud and forceful trespasser, while the mother (with a charge of criminal fraud in mixing solvents in petrol, already) is said to have helped with the black magic, somehow. The baba who confessed also has representation who claims he is not a baba at all, but that he works in stockbroking and transportation. A Ukranian model features regularly, seen at parties in with chargesheeted bureaucrat Lalit Modi and Shroff’s first wife, Romilla!

Case hearings are ongoing in this despicable example of money making the world go round- twice. Watch this space for updates.

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