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Coast tycoon's widow demands Sh20m from her stepson for upkeep

The second widow of Coast billionaire Shahid Pervez Butt has sued her stepson Haroon Butt for allegedly not honouring a March 2022 judgement on the distribution of the tycoon’s multi-billion shilling estate.

Regine Butt wants Mombasa High Court to compel Haroon to give her Sh20 million for her and her children’s maintenance pending the distribution of the estate.

On March 22 last year, a three-judge bench ruled that Butt’s business empire will be shared among his two widows and three children in strict compliance with Muslim succession law. The judges rejected the quest of Butt’s first widow, Akhtar Butt, to claim half of the estate.

The value of Butt’s business and estates in Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom and Germany where he also operated multiple bank accounts was, however, not stated in the ruling. In the past, reports estimated it to be about Sh5 billion.

Butt was killed by gunmen on July 11, 2014, in Changamwe. His death sparked a succession battle between Akhtar and Regine, which sucked in their children.

  Mombasa Bussinessman and Owner of Mordern Coast Shaid Bhat. [Maarufu Mohamed]

Akhtar bore Butt a son, Haroon. Butt later married Regine following his estrangement with Akhtar. Regine and Butt had two children, Taseen and Aleena.

The late tycoon owned several properties and bank accounts in many cities across the world. In Kenya, his famous business was Modern Coast Bus Company operating in Kenya and Uganda. Judges ruled that Akhtar and Regine should each own 6.25 per cent of their late husband’s estate.

Haroon and Taseen were each to get 35 per cent. Aleena was given 17.5 per cent of the shares. Haroon and Regine were also appointed trustees of Aleena and Taseen’s bequests because they are still minors.

“The deceased’s estate is hereby distributed among his dependents under the Muslim Law......” states the ruling, which validated Regine and Haroon’s letters of administration intestate.

Some of the late Butt’s firms, as per the court were Blue Bell Properties Ltd, Modern Coast Builders & Contractors Ltd, Pirbhai Jivanjee and Company Ltd, Vantage Point Clearing and Forwarding Ltd, Modern Coast Road Transporters Ltd, Vantage Road Transporters Ltd, Modern Coast Express Ltd and Modern Coast Courier Ltd. But the judges said in the ruling that Akhtar made an application seeking half of the deceased’s shares, saying she married him while both were of very modest means.

“Akhtar said that they borrowed money from her brother-in-law to start the business,” said the judges, adding that the widow stated that the business thrived culminating in the incorporation of Modern Coast Builders Company.

According to the judges, Akhtar asserted that the seed capital for all the companies had grown from the 50:50 per cent operation of the initial name of the business.

Estate administration

On Monday, Regine told Justice Gregory Mutai that Haroon had refused to cooperate with her in the administration of the estate and enforcement of the judgment or orders delivered last year. She said through her lawyer Peter Kaluma that Haroon was engaged in actions aimed at concealing the estate beyond trace and depleting it to naught.

 Regine Butt, the second wife to the slain Mombasa Businessman Shahid Butt. [Photo: Kelvin Karani]

According to Regine, the judgment delivered by Justices Eric Ogola, Njoki Mwangi and Patrick Otieno directed that the estate be distributed in accordance with Muslim laws. Further, the widow said the judgement stated that any assets of the deceased, which may have been inadvertently left out, must be subject to the distribution as per the share awarded.

In the 2022 judgement, the judges ordered that the administrators of the estate must transfer all the shares to the shareholders within 90 days after the day of the delivery of the judgement. Regine expounds by stating that the estate consists of identified and unidentified parcels of land and shares in several companies operating transport businesses in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. She said Haroon has been receiving fees and transport charges from the transportation business without accounting to her as the co-administrator.

“There is a cause to believe that assets of the estate have been invested and stashed in Europe and other jurisdictions out of court. My children and I have been rendered destitute and heavily indebted. The children risk dropping out of school for lack of maintenance and school fees. Haroon is frustrating the minors in the provision for their needs and education,” Regine stated in her affidavit.

She further says that they are not on talking terms with Haroon and, therefore, he’s unfit to continue as trustee for the bequests to the children and asked the court that an independent firm be appointed to effect the transmission of the shares as ordered by the court. “The independent firm should take over the management of the estates and collect, receive, trace and account for and avail the net estate distribution as ordered in the judgement,” she pleaded.

But Haroon has termed the application as a cheap ploy and a disguised attempt to mislead the court to review “hotly contested issues” canvassed and determined on the merits before the trial court. He said that it was trite that the High Court cannot sit on appeal of its own decisions.

Modern Coast Bus

The feud lifted the veil on how Modern Coast Bus Company started in 2005. In her testimony, Akhtar said the idea to start the transport company was mooted by her son, Haroon.

The judges said Akhtar narrated to the court how Haroon carried out a market survey in 2005 on the business venture but was unable to raise the capital to finance the idea until October 2, 2007.

She claimed that her husband did not contribute any of his earnings or assets towards the formation and acquisition of the buses adding that Haroon started to work at his father’s firm at the age of 12 years.

“The first order for the first four buses was made under the name of Modern Coast Builders Company Limited in December 2007,” she said.

Akhtar wanted the court to declare that she was the beneficial owner of half of Butt’s estate.  “The application by Akhtar to be vested with interests in the property of the deceased, as matrimonial property as related to shares in the subject companies is dismissed,” it stated.

“She asserts that her contribution to all companies subsequently progressed in that ratio. …and she should be adjudged to be entitled to 50 per cent,” said the judges in the ruling.

The cases started months after the death of Butt after Regine and the minors’ grandmother, Roselinda Gudrun Ostertag, filed a case praying for letters of administration to preserve the deceased’s estate until a general grant is made. 

But before the application was determined, Regine filed another case over the ownership of a palatial home situated along Mkomani Road in Mombasa, claiming she had been evicted. The house has since been demolished.

Assets

Court papers indicate that Butt had 120 motor vehicles, 48 trailers, six forklifts, three rollers and 12 motorcycles. He also owns houses and estates in different parts of the country.

“At the time of the deceased’s death, the bank loan of the business was over Sh350 million, but the company has continued to service the said loans with the result that the same now stands at just about Sh150 million,” said Akhtar, adding that Butt received reasonable remuneration for his hard work just like all the other employees of the companies.

The judges said while there was no doubt that the foundation of all the companies was traceable to the business initially operated between the deceased and Akhtar, those firms were legal entities and not just bodies disguising the person of the deceased and shares allocated to each party should stand.

“No evidence was placed before the court to prove any impropriety on the part of the deceased in the way the companies and their finances were managed.

“We find that if the two worked harmoniously, the allocation of the shares to Akhtar was done in harmony and amicably and that what was allocated to her was the reward for her industry in the family enterprise,” said the judges. 

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