Emil Savundra
Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) international swindler and confidence trickster, active in Belgium, Ghana and England (United Kingdom)
Emil Savundra
Emil Savundra, born Michael Marion Emil Anacletus Pierre Savundranayagam was an indigenous Tamil businessman from Ceylon (known as Sri Lanka from 1972) who later took British citizenship. He is known for having perpetrated financial frauds in several countries, culminating in the scandal of the Fire, Auto and Marine Insurance Company. Savundra twice served jail sentences for his frauds.
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  • 1976
    Age 52
    He died in Old Windsor, near Windsor, Berkshire, on 21 December 1976 at age 53.
    More Details Hide Details Survived by his widow, Savundra was registered as a "retired banker" and identified as Roman Catholic. In "The Death List", an episode of the British television comedy Yes Minister, Jim Hacker says that he once wrote a character reference for Savundra.
  • 1974
    Age 50
    Savundra was released from prison shortly before Christmas in 1974, still addicted to drugs.
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  • 1968
    Age 44
    Savundra was arrested shortly after his appearance on The Frost Programme after a two-year police investigation. In March 1968, he was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment with a £50,000 fine or an additional two years' imprisonment.
    More Details Hide Details Savundra was eventually placed in the prison hospital, where he became addicted to drugs to control persistent pain. Whilst he was in prison, it was discovered that he had used his wealth to go to clinics around the world; the clinic records were collected and collated.
  • 1967
    Age 43
    The fraudulent nature of Savundra's business affairs were again made public in 1967 as the result of a television interview by David Frost on the Rediffusion London show, The Frost Programme.
    More Details Hide Details The previous week, Frost had announced that he would include the story of the FAM debacle and Savundra in his next programme. Savundra injected himself with pethidine before the interview, appearing oddly calm despite Frost's aggressive questioning. Frost encouraged the studio audience to heckle Savundra. For his part, Savundra called Frost the "finest swordsman in England" and also referred to the audience (which included his clients, victims of the insurance-company failure) as "peasants" and claimed "no moral responsibility" for what had happened. Frost (who had anticipated that Savundra would express remorse to his victims) confronted him about his conduct, and the programme ended with shouts from the audience of "Well done, Frostie!" The interview was quickly dubbed "trial by television", and caused concern by Rediffusion management that Savundra's right to a fair trial had been compromised. The programme enhanced Frost's reputation in the UK as a vigorous interviewer.
    In January 1967, he re-entered the United Kingdom; at age 44, he was dependent on pethidine for back pain.
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  • 1966
    Age 42
    In May 1966, after a heart attack, the 42-year-old Savundra sold his FAM shares to his FAM directors.
    More Details Hide Details Led by Stuart de Quincey Walker, the company quickly collapsed and left an estimated 400,000 motorists uninsured. It is thatwere affected. Savundra was pursued by the media, who besieged his mansion in Hampstead for days. He fled to his native Ceylon, where he was sheltered by relatives, and the Ceylonese government refused to confirm that they would deny a British request for extradition. In December, Savundra returned to Europe; he was in Rome for a month, still pursued by the British press.
  • 1963
    Age 39
    In 1963 he formed the Fire, Auto and Marine Insurance Company (FAM), which took advantage of the thriving motor-insurance industry when car ownership in the UK was increasing and road networks were being developed.
    More Details Hide Details FAM offered low insurance rates, with crude (revolutionary at the time) computerisation in a collaboration with IBM. Savundra had a lavish, high-profile lifestyle before FAM collapsed due to cash-flow problems and exposure by Sunday Times reporters of the company's lack of proper securities. His activities had included powerboat racing in the Daily Express Cowes-to-Torquay race, where many photographs exist of Savundra mingling with rich and powerful figures. In his first race he fractured his spine, and was referred by a high-society friend to osteopath Stephen Ward. Savundra became involved with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, and was referred to at Ward's trial as "the Indian doctor" (although he was neither Indian nor a doctor). Because the scandal centred around the Minister of War, female escorts, the Russian defence attache, a well-known actress, a senior member of the House of Lords and many society figures, Savundra did not receive much attention. However, Keeler and Rice-Davies published autobiographies mentioning Savundra; this may have been when Private Eye began noticing Savundra's activities in London, triggering his downfall. David Frost, Savundra's eventual nemesis, posed for a photograph in the Christine Keeler shoot for the BBC's That Was The Week That Was by Lewis Morley.
  • 1959
    Age 35
    Savundra, who had developed a career of sharp practice characteristic of a post-war black marketeer, perpetrated a coffee-bean fraud at the expense of the Costa Rican government in 1959.
    More Details Hide Details His only criminal offence in Ceylon was the failure to pay an Inland Revenue bill based on earnings from some of his economic frauds. Savundra was absent from the island between 1951 and 1965, when he returned at age 42. By the early 1960s Savundra had settled in the United Kingdom, where he perpetrated the fraud for which he was convicted in 1968.
  • 1958
    Age 34
    In 1958 he resurfaced as a representative of American company Camp Bird for mineral interests in Ghana.
    More Details Hide Details Savundra was involved in bribery at the highest level of government, claiming in his diaries that this was typical Ghanaian business practice during the 1950s. He was deported from the country, presumably because a trial would have caused local embarrassment.
  • 1954
    Age 30
    In 1954, at age 31, Savundra was convicted of swindling the Kredietbank of Antwerp over a non-existent cargo of rice and was imprisoned in Belgium.
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  • 1948
    Age 24
    When Ceylon became independent in 1948, Savundra (age 24) tried to develop a business career on the island.
    More Details Hide Details Around this time he developed insulin-dependent diabetes, which would shorten his life. During this period, in the context of the Korean War, Savundra was used as a local intermediary in the economic sabotage of a shipload of oil which he appeared to be selling to China but which his American contacts had ensured did not exist. After using this device to support the US war effort, he repeated the process.
  • 1923
    Born in 1923.
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