Highgate: Chartered accountant forged his mum’s signature to claim share of £160m business empire
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A chartered accountant and “self-confessed liar” from Highgate forged his dead mum’s will to guarantee himself a slice of his family’s £160million business empire.
Girish Dahyabhai Patel, 65, used an unrelated blank document pre-signed by his “astute and devout” mum – Prabhavati Dahyabhai Patel – to forge a will that gave him control of the family’s £40m palm oil plantation in Malaysia, his brother Yashwant claimed.
At the High Court today, Judge Andrew Simmonds QC found the will to be have been forged, adding: “The truth is a flexible concept for Girish, to be fashioned according to his own interests and requirements.”
Consequently, the entire fortune went to Yashwant, as specified in an older will, and settled a “bitterly fought litigation” between Girish and two of his three brothers.
Patel, who lives off Fitzroy Park in Highgate, was caught out by forensic analysis of the document that showed specks of printer ink on top of the signature, but none underneath, suggesting the signature came before the text.
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He must now pay legal bills estimated at £1.3m, including £450,000 of his brother’s costs.
The court heard the family – from Gujarat in India – are successful businesspeople, with the palm plantation the “jewel in the crown” of an empire.
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But Girish, who sits as an arbitrator in disputes, fell out with his three brothers in 2009, leaving him “at odds with some, or all” of them, said the judge.
A “long and acrimonious dispute” has since raged over control of the businesses, with legal cases ongoing in several different countries.
The brothers’ mum died aged 88 in September 2011, sparking fresh arguments in court.
First, Yashwant, who is a 69-year-old Newcastle-educated medical doctor, came forward with a will, made in 1986, leaving everything to him.
The document was approved, but Girish then launched a bid to overturn it, for the first time producing a document he claimed his mum had signed in 2005.
In the case, their brother Suresh, 63, backed Yashwant, while another, Rajnikant, 71, played no part.
Girish claimed that, on a visit to London from her home in Singapore in 2005, his mother had asked him to make a new will.
She was concerned that, on her death, some of her money might be given to the Swaminarayan Temple, in Edgware, a Hindu sect she did not support.
Instead, she insisted that the will be in Girish’s favour so that he could distribute to charities of her choosing when she died.
She had gone to his offices in Gorst Road, North Acton, and put her name to the will, translated into Gujarati by him in the presence of witnesses.
However, the judge said that, apart from “unreliable” evidence put forward by Girish, nothing backed up his account of how the will was signed.
“I find that there were available to Girish blank papers pre-signed by the deceased which enabled him to forge the will, utilising a genuine but old signature of the deceased,” said the judge.
Despite being told not to discuss their evidence, Girish and some of his witnesses had got together for a “last-minute joint revision” session before the trial to make sure their evidence was as consistent as possible.
He “exercised influence” over crucial witnesses in the trial, enabling him to “persuade them both falsely to witness the will”.
“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.”