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Court battles reveal secrets of Devani property empire

Raj Harikrisna Devani, son of fugitive tycoon Yagnesh Devani's sister at the Kiambu Law court on March 1, 2017. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA | NMG
Raj Harikrisna Devani, son of fugitive tycoon Yagnesh Devani's sister at the Kiambu Law court on March 1, 2017. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA | NMG 

Protracted legal suits have revealed the vast amounts of wealth that Kenyan fugitive tycoon Yagnesh Devani’s close relatives control.

Court papers filed in one of the multiple cases indicate that Raj Devani, a nephew of Yagnesh, has lost control of his wealth to his mother, who was appointed the legal guardian and manager of his estate amid a simmering feud over control of assets worth hundreds of millions of shillings.

Yagnesh fled Kenya in 2009 in the wake of a scandal in which the Kenya Pipeline Company allowed his firm, Triton, to collect oil worth Sh7.6 billion and sell it without the financing bank’s approval — causing a biting fuel shortage in the domestic market.

Ms Devani (Raj’s mother) has since 2015 served as her son’s legal guardian, while the tycoon’s sister managed his vast estate, but last month she assumed the managerial role as well.

Her takeover of management came in the wake of an application in court that followed Raj’s committal to Mathare Hospital for mental treatment.

Raj in 2015 opposed the move to hospitalise him, arguing that it was a ploy by relatives to take control of the vast estate.

The tycoon’s mother has filed multiple cases at Nairobi’s Milimani Courts claiming that her son clandestinely transferred family assets to his companies and used them to secure more than Sh150 million in loans he has defaulted on.

The suits have also laid bare Raj’s enormous estate, which is made up of upmarket properties in the leafy Muthaiga, Runda and Spring Valley suburbs of Nairobi as well as company shares and undisclosed amounts of money in several bank accounts.

The most contested asset is a family home in Runda valued at over Sh200 million, which Prime Bank wants to auction to recover a Sh150 million loan it lent Raj and is now in default.

The home, located on a 1.2-acre piece of land, has a three-storey building with eight ensuite bedrooms, a four-bedroom guest wing, and a six-bedroom staff quarter. It also has a swimming pool, hallway with a hot water geyser, gym, and a bar.

Ms Devani says she built the home with her husband who died in 2001, leaving behind an estate estimated to be worth Sh800 million. The estate also had prime pieces of land, shares in Nairobi and United Kingdom-based companies as well as cash in several bank accounts.

Ms Devani says her son transferred ownership of the land to himself without consulting the family.

Raj in 2015 told the court that he was mentally fit and that his family was merely trying to wrest his wealth from him under the pretext that he was ill.

“There is a reasonable belief that Raj’s involuntary admission is part of a scheme to gain control of his businesses,” the tycoon says in court papers filed by LJA Associates, his lawyers.

Raj is a director of Shimmers Boutique Limited, Simkan Investments Group, Shimmers Group Limited, Shimmers Investments Limited, Sasha Holdings Limited, Jade Petroleum and Adra International.

He also co-owns another plush home in Nairobi’s Spring Valley where his estranged wife, Adina, lives with their two children.

Two of Raj’s companies, Jade Petroleum and Adra International, have been linked to the Sh44 billion Imperial Bank fraud.

Court documents show that the companies received Sh10 billion in irregular loan disbursements. Adra International is listed as one of the biggest exposures for Imperial Bank depositors, with a non-performing loan portfolio of Sh1 billion.

The Runda Home is owned by Sasha Holdings, the company which Adra International used as security for a Sh150 million loan from Prime Bank.

“Ms Devani does not know when the suit property was transferred from her late husband’s estate to Sasha International. She does not know and was never consulted by Raj or any other director of Sasha before, during and after loans were advanced to Adra International. She continued living in the suit property comfortably without the knowledge that it had been transferred to Sasha Holdings,” she says.

Ms Devani and her daughter Bindya told the High Court in 2015 that Raj had since his father’s death depleted the family estate mainly due to the mental illness and that he was unable to comprehend the basics of finance.

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