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Sons in epic fight for city billionaire Popat’s wealth across the world

Sibling rivalry has taken centre stage in the battle over distribution of assets left behind by billionaire businessman Abdulkarim Popat, with his three sons fighting each other for a bigger slice of prime properties in at least eight countries.

Mr Popat died at Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi, on March 2, 2013, leaving behind his wife Gulzar and three sons — Azim, Alnashir and Adil.

The tycoon’s wish was for his wife, sons Azim and Adil, four grandchildren and a friend to inherit the assets he owned in Kenya.

Mr Popat was immensely wealthy, with many assets in at least four continents. According to his will, he did not owe even a single cent to anyone.

Alnashir, the middle child, was left out of the will, having already been bequeathed what Popat senior deemed to be his inheritance.

OUT-OF-COURT DEAL

First born Azim and last born Adil have been in court since 2013, but last year they reached an out-of-court deal that would see the matter settled and the patriarch’s will executed.

The property dispute has taken a sharp turn, as Azim has asked the High Court to discard the deal, arguing that his younger brother blackmailed him into signing the consent that ended the court battle.

Azim co-owns Plaza 500 Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, as well as two family companies registered in the British Virgin Islands — Millgate Limited and Penrose Properties. The property’s total value is not given in the court documents, but the land it sits on is estimated to be worth Sh2 billion.

One of Plaza 500’s creditors, People’s Trust Company, has now obtained a British Columbia Supreme Court order allowing it to sell the hotel to recover its money.

Millgate and Penrose are, however, managed by a wealth consultancy called Louvre Group, based in Guernsey. Azim claims that the Louvre Group takes instructions from Adil, who took advantage of this to arm-twist him into signing the out-of-court deal.

Under the deal, Azim was to stop challenging his father’s will and join Adil in fighting Alnashir. The Popat first born and his son Jameel were also to sell any Simba Corp shares they receive after estate distribution, to a buyer acceptable to Adil.

BORROW FUNDS

In return, Adil would do his best to ensure that Louvre Group supports Azim’s plans to borrow funds from Canada’s Institutional Mortgage Capital for completion of a project to turn Plaza 500 into an apartment block.

Adil is yet to respond to the application.

“Under these most distressing circumstances, the General Election in Kenya, the unprecedented repeat election, this court’s August vacation and the absolute necessity for me to secure execution of the priority agreements, I felt concerned and had no option but to sign an unconscionable agreement dated September 4, 2017, that reflected everything Adil had always wanted me to do,” Azim says.

Azim adds that Adil insisted on making the Canada-based Popat’s wife and son Jameel to be part of the out-of-court deal.

Before the High Court could deal with the application, the third Popat son — Alnashir — also made an entry into the case, demanding that he also get a portion of the immense wealth.

Court documents show that Alnashir fell out with his father in 2007 after Adil, the last born, was given an executive role at Simba Corporation. Alnashir wanted an equal standing at the family firm.

Mr Popat and Alnashir would later reconcile, which saw the middle child given the family stake at Imperial Bank and three other companies — Super Spring, Pathcare and Cool Extreme.

LEFT OUT

Alnashir now says that Mr Popat’s will was discriminatory as it left him out, and that his siblings have unfairly left him out of the case before High Court judge Mugure Thande.

He claims that several assets were not listed when his siblings and mother sought a grant of probate, which would allow them to execute Mr Popat’s will.

Mr Popat left behind shares worth Sh3.366 billion in privately owned firms, including Simba Corporation, Deluxe Motors, Regal Properties and Bouganvillea Properties.

He also had assets in Canada, Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Guernsey, British Virgin Islands, Dubai, Switzerland and England.

Justice Mugure has ordered the parties to appear before her on September 26 for further directions.