From banker to jeweller, Atlas Ramachandran lived a life full of twists

Atlas Ramachandran's arrest and imprisonment in 2015 came as a shock to the business. File Photo.

Dubai: Businessman and film producer MM Ramachandran, popularly known as Atlas Ramachandran, lived a life like an Arabian thriller. He started his working life as a bank officer before venturing into the world of business in the Middle East.

Despite his busy business life, Ramachandran continued his association with art, literature, and cinema. Apart from making films like Vaishali, which created a stir in Malayalam cinema, his film distribution company distributed films like Innale, Kauravar, Vengalam and Chakoram. He also directed a movie called Holy Days and organised aksharshloka sessions (competitions in poetry recital) in Dubai and Thrissur.

Ramachandran was born on July 31, 1942 to Muthedathu Kamalaka Menon and Rugminiamma at Mullassery Madhukkara in Thrissur. He studied commerce and joined Canara Bank. After his stint at the State Bank of India, he left for the Middle East in the 70s. There he began working in a bank in Kuwait. But in the late 80s, he quit his job and started the jewellery business thus sowing the seed of Atlas Jewellery Group.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, he shifted the headquarters of his jewellery business to Dubai. Later, the industry witnessed the big boom of Atlas.

Atlas Jewellery Group, which was started three decades ago, had about 50 branches in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia besides the UAE, where 12 showrooms were in operation. There were branches in Kerala too. Atlas was also present in healthcare, real estate, and film production sectors.

But in 2015, as the group was witnessing a boom in business a Dubai court sentenced him to three years in jail after his cheques to the tune of Dh 3.40 crore, or about Rs 61.2 crore then, bounced. He had also defaulted on repaying a Rs 1,000 crore loan. Ramachandran spent the next three years in jail.

His arrest and imprisonment came as a shock to the business.

Earlier this year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached his assets in a case of financial fraud. Gold, silver, diamond and bank investments worth over Rs 57 crore were seized by the central financial investigation agency for duping South Indian Bank Ltd nearly a decade ago.

The assets of Ramachandran, his wife Indira and Atlas Jewellery Private Limited were also attached by the agency.

The case pertains to the submission of fake documents in the name of M/s Atlas Jewellery to avail of Rs 242 crore as a loan from the Thrissur branch of the private lender.

ED had also seized assets valued at Rs 26.50 after checks at the jewellery showrooms in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.

Ramachandran believed that some people who were jealous of his growth were behind the case. He was released from prison in June 2018. He claimed that the problems were caused by the sudden denial of the advances by two banks that had guaranteed loans to his group.

He was incarcerated in Aweer Jail in Dubai. Loneliness was what troubled Ramachandran the most during his imprisonment. He later said that he had to switch off the light of life while in prison.

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