May 26, 2024


Delighting finance buffs

Hindujas in legal brawl: $11 billion and a letter by dementia patient | 10 points

Hinduja brothers are back in news. With roots in undivided India’s Karachi (now in Pakistan), Hindujas became a formidable name in business with interests in the UK, India and other countries. Their names had propped in two major political scandals – Bofors in India and in 2001 in Britain leading to resignation of a cabinet minister.

This time, the Hindujas are fighting among themselves over a fortune worth $11 billion. Here’s what makes the legal wrangle among the four brothers a hot topic of public conversation.

1. First the names. The four Hinduja brothers are Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok. The Hinduja family is one of the richest in the world. The Hinduja Group is a business conglomerate with interests spread in over 40 countries in sectors such as banking, oil, finance, media and healthcare.

2. So, their legal battle is over sharing of their $11.2 billion fortune. In the eye of the storm is the Switzerland-based Hinduja Bank. But the case is not limited to that only.

3. Why? It is because of a letter that Srichand wrote in July 2014. Srichand is the head of the business and practically owns everything. The letter says the Hinduja assets held by any of the brothers belong to all four, and that each of them will appoint the rest as their executors.

4. The letter has taken the form of the will, for three younger brothers. Here lies the catch as the 84-year-old patriarch of the Hinduja family, says the letter does not represent his wish.

5. Srichand is suffering from a form dementia, called the Lewy Body disease. He is represented by his daughter Vinoo in a London court hearing the property dispute. Vinoo has told the court that her father, Srichand wants the letter declared invalid. The three brothers, Gopichand (80), Prakash (75) and Ashok (69) contest the claim of Srichand as represented by Vinoo.

6. Earlier, the London court said the three brothers tried to take control of the Hinduja Bank – belonging solely to Srichand – on the basis of 2014 letter. Vinoo told the court that Srichand had clarified in 2016 itself that the letter was not his will and that the family assets should be divided as per law.

7. The three brothers have challenged Vinoo being the “litigation friend” of Srichand. They have attached motive to her representation saying she has her own financial interest in the case, which should be represented by an independent lawyer to argue Srichand’s side.

8. But that is not the end of the family drama. Srichand’s wife Madhu and their other daughter Shanu appeared before the London court backing Vinoo as the appointed representative of the Hinduja patriarch.

9. This legal battle has popped again at a time when Srichand Hinduja’s children have consolidated their hold on the Hinduja Bank. Shanu’s son Karam Hinduja took over the Hinduja Bank as CEO last week. Shanu is already the chairperson of the bank and Srichand is the chairman emeritus.

10. The Hinduja brothers’ family dispute is bound to have implications for the group’s businesses in India as well. However, in a joint statement, the three younger Hinduja brothers said “this litigation will not have any impact on our global businesses, which will continue to function as they have been.” But this is nobler said than practically done.

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