Who is Tony Sharma and what is his role with Baard?

COLUMBUS — A new figure has entered the Baard Energy story: Kautilya “Tony” Sharma. The first time Tony Sharma’s name appeared in the Baard documents, obtained by public records requests, was on October 12, 2010. That day, Baard Vice President Steve Dopuch wrote, “Tony has asked to set up an 11:00 AM conference call tomorrow,” in a message to Baard CEO John Baardson, Baard Vice President Craig Conner, Columbiana County Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake, Tony Sharma, and Perian Salviola, identified by Baard as the owner of Planck Trading.

The documents show the following happened the next day:

9:48 AM: Tracy Drake wrote Baardson, Dopuch and Conner.

At our Board meeting this afternoon, we’ll be ready to authorize the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] with Tony. I’ll need Tony’s information asap to put into the MOU. To educate the public, please prepare a press release the outlines the relationship between Tony and Baard Energy. Also, I’d like to have you and Tony call in at 3:15 to discuss the matter with my Executive Committee.

1:48 PM: Steve Dopuch wrote Glenda Schaefer of the Port Authority that the signatory for the Memorandum of Understanding would be Perian Salviola of Planck Trading.

2:51 PM: Steve Dopuch wrote, “John, Tony, me and possibly Craig” would be calling into a conference call at 3:15 PM.

No press release was issued and there has been no mention of Mr. Sharma in subsequent public statements by Drake, Dopuch or Baardson.

The documents don’t explain why, in the morning, the Memorandum of Understanding was planned to be with Tony Sharma, but by the afternoon it had changed to Perian Salviola. Nor why, if the relationship was to be with Salviola, she wasn’t on the conference call to discuss it rather than Sharma. Nor why none of the spokespeople have mentioned Sharma since.

In 2004, the federal government prosecuted Mr. Sharma for securities fraud. After he was arrested, Judge James Hopkins ordered Sharma held without bail as a flight risk, accepting the prosecutor’s arguments, including the following:

The Government noted that the case involves approximately $7.6 million in stock loans, and that over $5 million in proceeds went to the Defendant, his family or his business entities. The Government also proffered that the Defendant has bank accounts and businesses located offshore, in the Bahamas and India, and that much of the proceeds from the stock loan transactions was transferred to these offshore accounts and businesses, including to an uncle in India. Moreover, the Government notes that the Defendant has stated in the past that if he ever got into trouble, all he had to do was hit the doors of the New Delhi airport, where he could easily obtain a fraudulent death certificate and disappear. The Defendant has also stated that he can always get the money he needs for his companies, that he has extensive familial and political ties to India, and that his wife’s family is worth over $150 million. The Defendant had planned to travel to India to set up more companies during the weekend of May 15, 2004; however, he was taken into custody before he had the opportunity to leave. The Defendant is reportedly closing his businesses, including Geek Securities, and his employees are either leaving or not getting paid. The Defendant is also alleged to be four (4) months behind in his mortgage payments, and his children have been sent to live with relatives.

In the end, Tony Sharma pled guilty and on October 18, 2004, was sentenced to 58 months imprisonment, followed by 3 years supervised release. Among the conditions for his release was the following:

The defendant shall not be engaged in any business that offers securities, investments, or business opportunities to the public. . . .The defendant shall not own, operate, act as a consultant, be employed in, or participate in any manner as a broker-dealer, equity trader, financial and operational principal, general securities principal, general securities registered representative, options principal or financial advisor during the period of supervision.

If Mr. Sharma is still under supervised release, it is not clear whether his signing the Memorandum of Understanding would have violated this condition, nor whether his current role with Baard would violate it.

 Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action