United Kingdom (UK)’s Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has kicked off investigations into the professional conduct of the country’s law firm Evans Dodd Solicitors, which businessman Karim Hirji says drew his late wife’s hereditary Will that has since been contested by his stepchildren.
According to Daily Monitor, Hirji’s wife, Ziba Nanyonga Hirji, alias Charm, died in a London hospital on February 8, 2004, after a long battle with cancer.
Subsequently, Karim Hirji took over the estate of his late wife on November 19, 2004, after the High Court in Kampala handed him letters of administration.
The daily publication adds that the letters of administration were handed to Karim Hirji after he presented a Will dated January 6, 2004. The Will is said to have been drawn by UK law firm Evans Dodd Solicitors.
Hirji and Joseph Ssempebwa, a worker and family confidant, were named as Trustees of his late wife’s estate, while Ms Anisha, Nabila, and Karima, Hirji’s three children with late Ziba Nanyonga, were listed as the only beneficiaries.
But Ziba Nanyonga’s three older children, Linda, Anita and Ronnie Birungi, disputed the said Will, arguing that it was forged.
However, according to Linda, if at all Evans Dodd Solicitors drew up the contested will, it did not follow the right procedures.
“It is evident that Evans Dodd did not follow specific procedures for Solicitors acting for vulnerable clients to establish effective communication, mental capacity and to avoid undue influence or fraud,” she stated.
Following Charm’s children submission, SRA has now decided to investigate circumstances surrounding the Will. SRA is now expected to out a report of its investigations before the end of June.
SRA is the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales that is responsible for regulating the professional conduct of more than 125,000 solicitors and other authorised individuals at more than 11,000 firms, as well as those working in-house at private and public sector organisations.
Last year, Hirji’s stepchildren petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga alleging that the Attorney General William Byaruhanga and lawyer Masembe Kanyerezi of MMAKS Advocates colluded with the businessman to fraudulently grab properties that belonged to their late mother hence denying them inheritance.
Ziba had three children before she got married to Hirji in 1985. Linda Birungi, the eldest daughter, is the petitioner on behalf of her siblings; Ronnie Birungi and Anita Birungi.Charm died on February 8, 2004 from Cromwell hospital in London and was buried at Kololo cemetery. She left several properties worth billions of shillings both in Uganda and the UK.
The estate in dispute includes three properties in London, a life insurance policy worth 3 million pounds, two houses in Bugolobi, two properties in Kololo, two shopping arcades in Kampala, two properties on Mawanda Road and others in Nansana and Gayaza.
“The attorney general is behind this fraud, how could they change her will just a week before her death. We are asking the speaker to fight for us so that we get what belongs to us,” the children said in their petition to Kadaga.
They also accused the businessman of taking all deposits estimated at $10m on Charm’s current and fixed deposit bank accounts in Barclays Bank now Absa Bank, ICBC Bank in UK and the defunct Imperial Investment Bank that belonged to Hirji and Allied Bank. They want Kadaga to compel Bank of Uganda to investigate the money on these bank accounts.
Byaruhanga is alleged to have travelled to London during Charm’s hospitalisation and obtained her signature which they used to sell off her properties in London and grab deposits on her London bank accounts.
“Parliament should help investigate our mum’s property that was transferred five days to her death. Mum was in coma and couldn’t understand what was happening. She had started taking strong medicine that impaired her judgement four months before her death,” the children say.
The children had filed a case in the Family Division of the High Court but they say it has not been very helpful so they want Parliament to intervene.
“We even went to the Bamugemereire Commision (on land) but we didn’t get much help,” the children noted.
In 2016, Charm’s children also petitioned the Aga Khan national council in Uganda for help.
The body controls the Ismaili community of which Hirji is a member. The children also wanted Charm’s remains exhumed to establish the cause of her ‘suspicious’ death.
In the case filed on December 31, 2015, the trio accuse Hirji and his friend Joseph Ssempebwa of transferring the deceased’s property into their own names as absolute owners, misappropriating monies from both her accounts and proceeds from her life insurance policy.
“We have over the years watched with tears as Karim Hirji continues to sell property after property with no shame and dignity,” Birungi’s petition partly read.
Linda urged the Aga Khan national council to prevail over Hirji to have dignity for himself and for the Ismaili community.
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