PETALING JAYA: An accountant and arbitrator who forged his dead mother’s will to obtain her stake in the family’s £160 million (RM874 million) business empire has been jailed for a year in London.
The Sunday Times of London reported that Girish Dahyabhai Patel, 65, did so to obtain her £40 million stake in a palm oil plantation in Malaysia.
The court found Girish had lied under oath and bolstered his case with false documents and coached witnesses.
He had used a blank document, pre-signed by his mother, to create the will, which he claimed she had written in 2005.
His brother Yashwant, 69, a doctor staying in New York, had produced an earlier will in which his mother had left the entire fortune to him.
The news report said document analysis revealed the faint indentation of the woman’s signature elsewhere on the paper, suggesting she had signed the sheet while putting her name to several blank documents, one on top of the other, for use in the family businesses.
Microscopic analysis also found there were specks of printer ink on top of the signature, but none underneath, suggesting the signature came before the text.
Their mother, Prabhavati, who had spent most of her time in Singapore, died in 2011 aged 88.
At the High Court in February, Judge Andrew Simmonds, QC, had found the will to be a forgery and upheld Yaswant’s will, made in 1986.
Yesterday, Justice Marcus Smith ruled Girish in contempt of court and sent him to Pentonville Prison for 12 months.
“Girish is a chartered accountant and sits as an arbitrator,” he continued. “I would, in the normal course of events, expect such a witness to be reliable and trustworthy.
“However, Girish is a self-confessed liar and even when accepting that he had lied to the court, there was a certain insouciance in his responses which increased rather than allayed my concerns as to his reliability generally.”
The judge said Girish had “exercised influence” over crucial witnesses in the trial, enabling him to “persuade them to falsely witness the will”.
Other news reports shed more light on the family background.
Originally from India, Prabhavati and her husband, DP Patel, relocated to Singapore and built up a commodities business.
The business prospered even though Patel suffered a stroke and returned to live in India with Prabhavati and two of their sons, Girish and Suresh.
Two other sons, Rajnikant and Yashwant, remained in Singapore to complete their education.
When the brothers reached working age they all became involved in the business.
The business grew and “the jewel in the crown” was the Aumkar palm oil plantation in Malaysia, lawskills.co website said.
Rajinikant lived in Australia, Girish in London and Suresh remained in Singapore. Yashwant, trained as a doctor in Singapore and then emigrated to New York in 1979.
Prabhavati had a limited education. Her mother tongue was Gujarati and she spoke little English.
When the deceased died in 2011, the brothers’ dispute became more bitter, the website said.