Gaurav Kumar Srivastava, an Asian businessman living in America, has been accused of orchestrating international scams in which he claimed to be a Central Investigation Agency (CIA) operative to defraud global businessmen, including the Geneva-based Dutch oil trader Niels Troost.
An investigation published in respected investigative journalism forum “Project Brazen” has laid bare the full extent of how Srivastava conned the Dutch oil trader, leading to a legal battle. The elaborate web of lies has been exposed at the “Project Brazen” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter Bradley Hope and Scobin Kim.
According to the available evidence, Gaurav Srivastava met Troost in summer 2022 at the G20 summit in Bali that November. The Atlantic Council hosted the event sponsored with more than $1 million by the Gaurav & Sharon Srivastava Foundation, the non-profit NGO run by Srivastava with his wife Sharon Srivastava (née Johnson) in the name of
‘securing food & energy for America and the world’. Troost and Srivastava joined a panel of experts to discuss global food security, and the Atlantic Council’s President Frederick Kempe profusely thanked Srivastava for his generous donation but he had no idea what would happen in the following months.
According to the Project Brazen investigation, Niels Troost was introduced in summer 2022 by a mutual contact to Gaurav Kumar Srivastava, who pretended to be very well connected with the Washington power circles and also to the country’s main spy agency – the CIA. At that time, the oil trader was in a state of growing panic as someone purporting to be a US government informant had falsely led him to believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating him and his commodities-trading company headquartered in Switzerland, Paramount Energy & Commodities SA. Months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Paramount was continuing to trade Russian oil, mainly crude, in full compliance with the law, shipping from a port near Vladivostok. At the time, the G-7 was actively considering a price cap on Russian oil, with the US as its biggest supporter.
Troost asked Gaurav Srivastava for help. Srivastava assured him that he will deal with the FBI and led Troost to believe he was a “non-official cover” or NOC (pronounced “knock”) for the CIA and operated at the senior level amongst a total of 30 NOCs around the world. Srivastava put forth a dubious proposition: if Troost could make Srivastava a partner in the business, by moving 50% of the shares of Paramount to a Delaware-incorporated company controlled by Srivastava, and domicile Paramount into the US, Troost would quietly be excused from future sanctions on Russia, because he would then be part of a state-approved network to collect intelligence on behalf of the US. Srivastava stipulated that the transfer must take place through US law firm Baker & Hostetler.
According to the investigation, Srivastava lied to Troost that he was involved in top-secret counter-terrorism missions, including several in Afghanistan, and that in 2008 he was held hostage by ISIS in the Democratic Republic of Congo – despite there being no evidence of ISIS in the DRC at the time.
According to a transcript of their meeting, Srivastava, who was born in Lucknow in Northern India and now appears to reside in Los Angeles with his wife Sharon, told Troost that it was through his work as a CIA agent that he was able to make high-level contacts in Congress and the State Department and that these contacts would allow Troost to continue doing business in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine with a special license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), provided that he agreed to Srivastava’s conditions.
According to the legal papers, Troost engaged Baker & Hostetler as Paramount’s counsel in November 2022. He was not, however, made aware that Jeffrey Berg, a partner at firm, and Srivastava were business partners in a South African company called Himmelhoch Petroleum and Gas.
Legal papers show that within a year, Troost had transferred 50% of the shares to Srivastava but had yet to complete the US domiciling of Paramount due to rising doubts about Srivastava’s bona fides. Srivastava made tall claims about his CIA and FBI connections but was unable to show any evidence of his influence, making Troost increasingly uneasy.
When Srivastava realised that Troost was having doubts and delaying, he turned hostile towards the oil trader and told him he must hurry with the US domiciling or else he can forget about any favors. In an aggressively worded text message to Troost, he wrote: “Stop with games & tell you staff too or as a shareholder I want to block the funds of the company. I told you not BS me. I am really done Niels.”
Gaurav Kumar Srivastava ramped up his name-dropping as well, telling Troost that he had weathered a profane outburst from the Director of the CIA, William J. Burns, because Troost was dragging his feet over this particular transaction.
According to legal papers, it was in April 2023 that Troost hired investigators to perform due diligence on Srivastava and discovered a chilling history of fraud suits and unpaid bills: in 2017, a Colombian businessman sued Srivastava for sales of unlicensed medical devices; in 2019, a hospital sued Srivastava for stopping payments on checks paid for medical bills; in the same year, a woman in Los Angeles sued Srivastava and his wife for failing to repay a loan of $100,000; Srivastava counter-sued her for slander when she sent a message to Srivastava’s potential business partner calling him “a thief and a con artist,” whereupon the potential business partner withdrew from a multi-million-dollar business deal.
Seeing the intelligence reports of Srivastava’s alleged fraud, Troost realized that Srivastava had no connections with the CIA and that he was only a huckster who cobbled together false stories to feign an air of importance, exclusivity and impunity. His true intention, Troost came to believe, was to make off with Paramount once it was domiciled into the US, adding to a portfolio of pilfered companies.
According to evidence, the whole fraud scheme broke down on May 10, 2023, when Troost terminated Paramount’s relationship with Baker & Hostetler and rescinded Srivastava’s shares on the grounds of error and deceit, restoring Paramount to his full control. When Srivastava realized his shares had vanished, he fired off an angry text message to Troost.
Throughout the next few days, Troost and his family were terrorized with a series of threatening calls and texts from unknown numbers, according to evidence. One unknown Iranian number threatened to release an “un-blurred confession video” of Troost, if he didn’t wire $10 million in 48 hours. Troost’s daughter received another text from someone with a California area code, claiming to be a Wall Street Journal reporter writing a story about her father’s ties to a prominent Russian individual. Three days after cutting off contact, Troost received another text from Srivastava, this time with a hint of desperation: “We need to talk. Really.”
When Troost refused to respond, Srivastava and his attorney Berg met with the ambassador of Turkey to the US to attempt to derail Troost’s business arrangements to invest in a terminal in the country. Berg wrote a letter to the Swiss ambassador to the US and the US ambassador to Switzerland, levelling false and increasingly wild allegations about Troost’s business in the hope that Paramount would come under official scrutiny.
This matter is subject to ongoing legal action where Gaurav Srivastava has been described as a serial conman and fraud. The cases are set to reveal more scandalous material in coming months.
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