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US court awards Rs 2,000 crore to four Indian brothers in decades-old property feud

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A United States jury ordered a hefty multibillion-dollar sum in damages in a legal feud involving five Indian-origin brothers.

The verdict came in a 21-year-old land dispute wherein Haresh Jogani was ordered to pay his four brothers over Rs 2,000 crore in damages and further divide up shares of their property empire in Southern California, as per a Bloomberg report.

The property empire includes about 17,000 apartments worth billions of USD more.

The 2003 lawsuit, which finally came to a head with a jury awarding billions and property division, had undergone 18 appeals, generations of attorneys and five judges in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The trial began over allegations that Haresh Jogani had breached a long-standing partnership with his siblings. As per reports, the hearing on punitive damages is listed for Monday, and it could see an addition to the existing Rs 2,000 crore award.

The case has also drawn parallels from some lawyers to the fictional Victorian-era probate case that the famous Charles Dickens wrote about in his novel — Bleak House. Jogani v. Jogani is the new Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, but with a twist, Bloomberg reported.

“At the end of the book (Bleak House), there was no money, hence the name. That is not the case here. There are billions here that remain to be distributed,” the report quoted one of the attorneys representing Chetan and Rajesh Jogani.

The Jogani brothers, natives of Gujarat, erected a fortune in the global diamond trade, with a presence in Europe, Africa, North America and the Middle East. Shashikant Jogani moved to California in 1969 and started his firm in the gem business and property portfolio, as per the complaint he filed in 2003.

In the early 1990s, when properties suffered losses in the recession, Shashikant Jogani brought his brothers on board and made them his firm partners. As per his complaint, Haresh Jogani ended the collaboration and “forcibly removed” his sibling from managing the firm and refused to pay him.

This, as per Shashikant Jogani’s complaint, took place after the firm had embarked on a buying spree that eventually built a portfolio of roughly 17,000 apartment units.

On the other hand, Haresh Jogani contended that without a written agreement, his siblings could not substantiate that they had a partnership with him. But the Los Angeles court found that Haresh breached an oral contract. The juror heard testimony that oral agreements are customary in both, the diamond trade and among the Gujarati community.

Shashikant Jogani’s attorney, as per Bloomberg, stated that the law stands that one can enter oral contracts that are just as valuable as written agreements.

After decades, numerous appeals and bias allegations coupled with Haresh Jogani’s accusations of “racial animus”, the jury concluded that 77-year-old Shashikant Jogani owns 50 per cent of the real estate partnership and ordered an initial damages award for him of USD 1.8 billion.

Published By:

Srishti Jha

Published On:

Mar 2, 2024

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