Dubai: A failed Mammootty show organised by Sunanda Pushkar in early 90s in Dubai along with her then husband Sujith Menon, incurring a loss of more than Rs 22 lakh, skilled her to make a fortune of almost Rs 100 crore, next time she returned to the same city, almost a decade later.
Sunanda, as per the official affidavit submitted by her last husband and former union minister Shashi Tharoor, owned 12 properties in Dubai worth around Rs 93 crore, at the time she was found dead in a hotel room in Delhi in January 2014. And she acquired all this wealth in Dubai in six years, between 2004 and 2010, the year she got married to Tharoor.
The city thus remains witness to Sunanda's rise as a self-made businesswoman with huge entrepreneurial acumen and is sadly linked to her unexplained death as well.
A year after Sunanda's tragic death Zee Media visited Dubai, in an attempt to know more about her life in this cosmopolitan city, where she spent almost two decades in two phases – 1989 to 1998 and 2004 to 2014. Her friend circle and social circuit in Dubai refuse to accept that she could ever commit suicide. However, most of them have maintained cautionary silence after Delhi police registered a murder case in January this year and are investigating the matter.
Dubai, known as the new investment destination of 21st century, is also an alleged infamous melting point of high profile security and Intelligence agencies – especially from India and Pakistan, influential corporate fraudsters and betting masterminds. Delhi police are also investigating the money trail of Sunanda's investments during IPL in 2010, which may lead them to Dubai.
Sunanda's rise in Dubai coincides with the real estate boom in the city after 2002. She took its best advantage, when she arrived in Dubai second time in 2004 on Canadian passport, where she lived for more than five years, between 1999 and 2004.
"She along with her husband lost almost around Rs 3 lakh UAE dirhams in Mammootty show, in early 90s. It was a huge amount. It was not her fault. Somebody had printed fake tickets. Even though the hall was full that day, no revenue could be generated by the organisers," a friend of Sunanda, settled in Dubai, who also lost more than Rs 10 lakh in that show, told Zee Media. He met Zee Media in his posh office in Business Bay of Dubai, but requested anonymity.
"She was a generous lady, but this financial loss shattered her hugely and even strained her personal relationships," he adds. However, after many hiccups in personal and professional life, Sunanda finally left Dubai and returned many years later in 2004.
"She moved in a different circle of friends now. It seems she wanted to make it big this time and never repeat any of her past mistakes," said another close friend of Sunanda, who met Zee Media at a Mall in Dubai, but refused to be identified.
She worked for Best Homes initially and later shifted as sales manager in TECOM to work for an International Media Production Free Zone. "This is when she was majorly introduced to the realty sector and she started cracking big deals," he added.
"Now Sunanda was at the right place at the right time," added her another friend, who lives in Dubai since early 80s. "However, we can't even think she would kill herself. She was a courageous woman who lived life on her own terms."
As per her interviews to different media outlets, she owns two three-bedroom apartments in Jumeirah Palm, an artificial archipelago, extending into the Persian Gulf in Dubai, where she shared the address with celebrities including David Beckham, Robert De Niro and Shahrukh Khan. An average villa in Palm Jumeirah would cost around Rs 25 crore while an average apartment would be around Rs six crore.
Similarly, a beachside apartment in Jumeirah Beach residence, located against the Persian Gulf is her another property in Dubai. The high-rise towers of JBR against Persian Gulf resemble Manhattan on the Hudson river in New York. Dubai police patrol this area in Buggati Veyron or Lamborghini cars. An average apartment would cost around Rs six crore.
Sunanda has two apartments in Executive Towers, which is a cluster of ten residential and two commercial towers located in Business Bay area. This tower cluster is five-minute walk from the metro station and a clear view of Burj Al Khalifa — the tallest building in the world — is visible from almost all the towers of cluster. According to her friends Sunanda lived in a second floor, three-bedroom apartment, opposite Emirates Financial Towers.