The grift, the prince, the twist, and the truth (maybe)

If you read my daily email newsletter, When The Going Gets Weird (and if not, what is wrong with you?!) then you might recall a bizarre tale from Graydon Carter’s Air Mail entitled “The Grift, the Prince, and the Twist.” Written by Hannah Ghorashi and editor George Pendle, it told the story of Amar Singh, a descendant of a well-to-do Indian family (in other words, a “prince,” depending on your definition of that term) who said he was conned by a woman named Liza-Johanna Holgersson, who claimed to be from a rich Swedish family and took advantage of him. Pretty straightforward so far. But as the story continues, it gets more and more bizarre, until it’s almost impossible to tell what the real story is. And now there is an update, via an email to me — read on.

After giving Air Mail reams of documents and evidence of Holgersson’s scams, including her affairs with other men, some of whom also gave interviews to Air Mail, the only thing missing was a comment from Holgersson herself. Finally, the writer was able to get hold of Holgersson — who turned the tables on Singh, saying he wasn’t who he seemed, and that he had been threatening her, playing an audio tape of him making threats and calling her horrible names. Sure enough, there seemed to be some holes in Singh’s background as a philanthropist who had donated millions of dollars worth of paintings and art to support LGBTQ rights. One art dealer called him an outright fraud.

Then Singh contacted the writer and said the whole thing was just a misunderstanding — he and Holgersson had just had a falling out, and the whole thing about her scamming him was cooked up as a way of trying to make a movie, a la Anna Delvey, about a Swedish scam artist and an Indian prince. Singh claimed that some of his allegations — such as the theft of a rare book — had been made up, despite a record of a police complaint (which Singh himself made) being filed with a local detachment. Holgersson also said the whole story was made up, then threatened Air Mail with legal repercussions, but the law firm she said was representing her turned out not to exist.

I had pretty much forgotten about the whole weird tale until the other day, when got an email that claimed to be from none other than Amar Singh, in which he said that the Air Mail article was “largely false,” and pointed me towards what he called a “counter article” in the Los Angeles Blade written by Karen Ocamb, a former editor. The headline read “Epic smear of Royal LGBTQ+ ally Amar Singh is dangerous,” and said Air Mail had “let inaccuracies stand to bring down a royal .” Ocamb said she met Singh in 2017 and profiled him because of his LGBTQ+ activism, and that the behavior described by Air Mail was the “immature flip side” of his passion for the rights of women and minorities.

Singh had been upset by his girlfriend’s gaslighting and unfaithfulness, and lashed out, Ocamb wrote. Then he was “humiliated and ashamed by his behavior” and apologized, and tried to retract the story. But the Air Mail writer and her editor seemed determined to “bring down a royal,” Ocamb said. Singh said that the article was a “12,000-word smear campaign against me in an attempt to affect my human rights work which questions my family, my heritage, my education, and my life’s work. Yes, I messed up in my personal life. But I still care about my ex-girlfriend and these personal mistakes do not warrant attacks against my family and human rights work.”

Ocamb said that in contrast to the Air Mail piece — which questioned whether Singh had donated anything to museums and other organizations, let alone works worth $3 million — she was able to verify all of his donations to multiple groups including the Smithsonian, and that it was clear that the value of these donations was well over $3 million. On top of all that, the art critic who was quoted calling Singh a fraud sent an email to Singh — which Ocamb includes by way of a screenshot — denying that he had said any such thing, and accusing Air Mail of fabricating his quotes.

Where is the truth in this bizarre story? That is for you to judge, dear reader. Perhaps it is in there somewhere, but I have run out of patience and interest in trying to find it, so over to you!

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