The Family Court has finally settled a nine-year-old succession battle of a multi-billion-shilling estate owned by the late Mombasa tycoon Dalip Singh Dhanjal.
In a verdict that now puts his daughter Jaswinder Kaur Koundu, his son Nirmal Singh Danjal and his grandson into the billionaire’s league, Justice John Onyiego ordered that the mogul’s wealth, which can be ascertained, should equally be distributed between the three.
The wealth in Kenya and UK is estimated to be worth over Sh15 billion.
“Having gone through the ownership documents in support of the assets listed under category A and items 20-23 in category B, I am satisfied that the identified assets whose ownership is clear from the annexed documents are to be shared out between the three beneficiaries in equal shares,” Justice Onyiego directed.
The battle between Singh’s daughter and his son started in 2020.
The tycoon died intestate on July 15, 2010.
Following his death, Nirmal filed for succession claiming to be the sole heir to the estate. He was given the authority to administer the estate by the court on December 19, 2013. The same was confirmed by the court on February 14, 2014.
But his sister Jaswinder filed an objection against the orders issued by the court. She informed the court that Nirmal was not alone.
The court revoked the grant it issued to Nirmal on November 26, 2018, following a mutual agreement between him and Jaswinder.
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The two were then allowed to manage the estate jointly. Nirmal was however ordered to provide a full list and accurate account of the estate from December 19, 2012, until the date he alongside his sister filed a consent in court.
He was also to file a written indemnity in favour of his sister against any third party who he had dealt with at the time he was managing the estate alone.
Meanwhile, their cousins Sukhwant Kaur Dhanjal and Joginder Singh, filed an application to join the succession case.
According to the two, they were representing the interest of their late father Jaswant Singh Boor Singh Dhanjal. Jaswant and Singh were brothers.
They told the court that some of the properties that had been listed in the succession were co-owned and developed by the two deceased brothers. They informed the judge that they had their own separate succession case to share Jaswant’s estate filed in 2006.
At the same time, they also told the court that Singh had a third child Kirpal Singh Danjal who was also called Rajpal.
Rajpal, according to his cousins died in 2006 but left a widow named Inderpal Dhanjal and a son code-named J.S.D.
However, the court two years ago dismissed Sukhwan and Joginder’s application after finding that they were not beneficiaries in Singh’s estate.
Inderpal filed a fresh application to be enjoined as a beneficiary in the estate alongside her son.
Nirmar and Jaswinder agreed to have their nephew listed as an heir to the estate. Meanwhile, Inderpal withdrew her interest in the estate.
Subsequently, Jaswinder filed court papers on January 19, 2021, seeking the court’s authority to distribute the estate. She alleged that her brother had failed to cooperate and participate in the process. In her court papers, she listed Singh’s wealth in three categories. The first was his assets that could be confirmed. The second and third lists contained assets that were not ascertainable.
She listed three blocks of properties in that Singh had shared ownership. At the same time, Jaswinder told the court that he also had 18750 shares in Dhanjal Investments Limited.
Dhanjal Investments is said to own Travelers Beach Hotel in Mombasa.
At the same time, according to Jaswinder, Dhanjal also had six plots, four bank accounts at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), and other two accounts at Bank of India and at Spire Bank.
She also listed 125 shares in Dhanjal Properties Limited adding that it had one plot under it.
At the same time, she listed one share in Jaypee and Sons Limited and which owned eight properties in Mombasa.
Singh, according to his daughter also held 1250 shares in Express Holdings Limited, one share in Chania Estuary Developers Limited, one share in Pesce Enterprises Limited, one share in Chempac Limited, and one share in Whitehart Holdings Limited.
The assets she claimed could not be ascertained includes 11 plots, shares in Dhanjal Brothers Limited, Merryfield Limited UK, and Water Beach Investments Limited.
Meanwhile, she also listed an account at the Bank of Baroda as among the assets that could not be ascertained.
Nirmal filed his opposition to Jaswinder’s application. According to him, she did not reveal that the properties and companies had other persons who had an interest.
The man argued that his late father owned properties alongside his brothers Jaswant, Baldev Singh Dhanjal, and Narinder Dhanjal. According to him, the deceased magnate had tangled interests and was a co-director of the companies with his brothers.
According to him, the brothers had agreed that upon their death, all the properties were to be shared according to the family’s memorandum of agreement.
Nirmal told the court that several properties had shifted ownership.
He argued that unless the properties that changed hands are returned to the original owners, then the assets in dispute should not be distributed.
Inderpal supported her sister-in-law Jaswinder. She argued that her brother-in-law could not hide behind the settlement agreement between his late father and his brothers as the court had dismissed the same in 2020.
Meanwhile, Jaswinder told the court that none of her late father’s siblings had raised a claim in the estate. She argued that her brother could not, therefore, plead their case.
Justice Onyiego agreed with Jaswinder and Inderpal that the issue of the agreement between Singh and his brothers could not be re-opened by his son.
“He (Nirmal) generally dismissed the application for confirmation and hence stuck in muddy waters in trying to defend an agreement which is long dead and buried. He should accept the reality that all the deceased’s assets must be identified as they were when he died without incorporating the elements of the settlement agreement. The state cannot remain undistributed forever while still crying over a non-existent settlement agreement,” said Justice Onyiego.