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Daljit Dhanjal saved from prosecution in Sh2bn family estate row

Friday October 26 2018

Mr Jaspal Kaur Nagi

Joginder Singh Dhanjal (centre) and his son Kavir Singh (left) chat with their lawyer Mohamed Ali outside the courtroom after the High Court in Mombasa dismissed Ms Nagi’s application. Ms Nagi had sought to have his brother Daljit Singh Dhanjal prosecuted for interfering with their late father’s estate. PHOTO | BRIAN OCHARO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRIAN OCHARO
By BRIAN OCHARO
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A court has declined to allow the prosecution of one of the five siblings of a Mombasa tycoon in a dispute over the management of a Sh2 billion family business.

High Court Judge Mugure Thande said that despite the court finding that Mr Daljit Singh Dhanjal had meddled with the estate of their deceased father — Jaswant Singh Dhanjal — the court has a duty to ensure the family is not torn apart further.

“The relationship between the siblings is hostile; this played out in court during the last appearance. In dealing with matters concerning families, the court must be mindful of the need to foster lasting family relations,” she said.

Ms Jaspal Kaur Nagi had gone to court seeking the prosecution of his brother Daljit for interfering with the estate. The applicant said the respondent had illegally entered into a settlement agreement through which assets were disposed of.

CRIMINAL OFFENCE

Ms Nagi said meddling with the estate of a deceased person is a criminal offence under the law and the court held that indeed the respondent contravened the provisions of the law and committed an offence. “It is, therefore, only fair and just that the respondent be criminally prosecuted and be held criminally liable for his illegal and unlawful actions,” the applicant submitted through his lawyer Khalid Salim.

In a further application, he sought the annulment of a settlement agreement entered into by Ms Daljit and his uncles on March 9, 2006, which purported to deal with and transfer assets of the estate.

On October 13, 2016, the court ruled that the settlement agreement was void and further found that Ms Daljit had interfered with the estate, findings which were also upheld by the Court of Appeal on February 2 this year.

PROSECUTED

It is upon this premise that the applicant wants his brother prosecuted.

But while dismissing Ms Nagi’s application, the judge noted that nothing in law prevents the court from granting the orders sought.

“However, the court’s view is to take restorative rather than punitive measures that will promote family harmony among the Dhanjal siblings. To grant the orders sought will, in my view, lead to further degeneration of the relationships and perhaps even tear the family apart altogether,” she said. The judge said it was important that the siblings don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal — that of each party benefiting from the estate.

Justice Thande said the role of the court is to ensure that the estate is protected and eventually distributed to all the beneficiaries fairly. “In the circumstances and in the interests of creating a conducive atmosphere for the distribution of the estate, I decline to grant the orders sought. There shall be no orders as to costs,” she ruled.

BUILDING PROJECTS

Mr Daljit is the youngest son in the Dhanjal family and who acts as the managing director of Dhanjal Brothers which is a construction, building and maintenance company. Their father died in 2004 and, since then, his third-born Joginder Singh Dhanjal, who is a director in the company, has accused Daljit of fraud.

The dispute between the two brothers over the management of the family enterprise has spilt into the courts and now threatens to bring down the business. The Sh2 billion company deals in land acquisition, construction, building, maintenance, leasing as well as acquisition and purchase of merchandise and other properties.

TRANSFERRED SHARES

The contractor has been involved in major building projects at the Coast including the construction of the Mariakani-Kaloleni road, Links Road and was also a sub-contractor in the building of Nyali Bridge.

In a suit filed in 2004, Mr Joginder had claimed that his brother transferred some of the shares to himself using “devious means, intimidation and coercion”.

He said he had learnt about this when he signed documents presented to the court whose contents he did not understand and which approved the transfers.

One of the siblings had filed a court petition to wind up the company on allegations of fraud.