The story of Bernie Madoff proved that it’s possible to fool investors for a surprisingly long time – at least as long as you have the control, charm and nerve for it. Journalists Simon Clark and Will Louch offer a cautionary tale in the same vein with this intriguing account of how an alleged fraudster used the momentum from a bit of modest investing success to construct a lofty edifice of hubris and spin. While the details of this scam centered on the modern idea of impact investing, its simple essence was as old as time: the classic Ponzi scheme.
Arif Naqvi’s deal-making skills helped make him big in private equity investing in the Middle East.
Arif Naqvi was born in Karachi, Pakistan. His father was a middle-class businessman who could just about afford to send him to an exclusive local grammar school. Naqvi later attained a place at the London School of Economics, got good grades and then trained as an accountant. After a few false starts, in 1990 he moved to Saudi Arabia to join a company involved in consumer goods, logistics and banking. But Naqvi’s ambitions were too big to allow him to work for someone else, and he had an ability to charm people and win their trust. He convinced wealthy Pakistani expatriates he met at a poker game to lend him money to fund his own projects. In 1994, he relocated to Dubai. His early ventures were nothing special, but he began making a name for himself on the social scene.
In 1998, Naqvi found investors to help him buy a grocery and liquor business serving the Middle East. The move was typical private equity sleight-of-hand – he acquired the $98 million company with loans secured against the business itself and without...
Simon Clark, a journalist in London formerly with The Wall Street Journal, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2016. Will Louch, formerly with The Wall Street Journal, is with Bloomberg News in London.