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Last Nizam’s heirs set to move court if denied share of £35 million

Indian Express 2019-10-11 07:02:54
The dispute revolves around £1,007,940 transferred to bank account of then High Commissioner of Pakistan in London. (File)

The 100-odd descendants of Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, are likely to move court if they are denied a share in the £35-million fund lying in a UK bank, which the UK High Court, on October 2, .

Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, son of Hashim Jah Bahadur, the fifth son of Mir Osman, told The Indian Express that if the Nizam’s two grandsons — Mukarram Jah, titular VIIIth Nizam, and his younger brother Muffakham — who inherited the largest fortune in the world in 1967, make any moves to cut off the rest of the clan from their share, they will challenge it in court.

“The brothers have not got in touch with us yet, so we don’t know what they are planning,” Najaf Ali told The Indian Express. “Also, we are waiting (to see) whether Pakistan decides to appeal.” He said, “The terms and conditions are very clear when the brothers entrusted the case to the Government of India: that if the case is won, the money would be distributed among all descendants and the government. The two brothers cannot take a decision on their own now and cut off the rest.”

Nizam VII, Mir Osman Ali Khan (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Senior advocate Harish Salve, India’s legal counsel in the UK, said, “December 19 will determine the next step. We will know whether Pakistan will appeal (against the UK court’s decision), and also modalities for distribution between India and the princes will be discussed.”

Besides modalities of settlement, the UK court will also determine legal costs payable by Pakistan for instituting the suit.

According to Najaf Ali, as of 2013, there were 120 descendants of the Nizam, but some of them have died since then. The UK High Court’s judgment on October 2 mentions only the two “Princes’’ — Mukarram and Muffakham Jah — and India as beneficiaries of the funds.


How India, Pakistan became parties in case

On September 20, 1948, last Nizam Mir Osman’s Finance Minister Moin Nawaz Jung transferred £1,007,940 and 9 shillings from an account of Government of Hyderabad at London’s Westminster Bank to an account of Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, High Commissioner of newly formed Pakistan, in the same bank. Pakistan laid claim because the money, now approximately Rs 306 crore, was transferred to the account of its then High Commissioner. The government of India and Mir Osman reached a settlement in 1965, under which the “Rahimtoola fund” will be divided between the parties.

When the trial was on in the UK, Mukarram removed himself from proceedings and assigned his interest to his company, Hillview Assets Holding Limited. Muffakham remained party to the proceedings but also assigned his interest to his company, Shannon Consulting Limited.

One descendant living in Hyderabad, said, “The Nizam’s descendants fear that by assigning their interest to their companies the two brothers may have made it legally difficult for (other) heirs to claim their share.” Mir Osman had 16 sons and 18 daughters, and 104 grandchildren. They are settled in places such as Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, the UK and Saudi Arabia.

According to different heirs, the later generations did not fare very well professionally and depend, to a large extent, on monetary benefits handed out by 54 trusts that the last Nizam established.

Mahboob Ali, a legal heir, said: “A majority of them spend the entire day at Hyderabad’s Nizam Club…. All the Nizam’s descendants are life members of the club, and everything is either free or highly subsidised for them. When they receive the hefty cash doles from the trusts, they distribute it among their children. For many, it is the only source of income. Some of them purchased properties at prime locations long ago and receive huge amounts in rent.”

Some descendants, such as Najaf Ali Khan, who lives in Hyderabad, fear that given that Mukarram and Muffakham Jah squandered away a lot of wealth they may decide to divide the money among themselves.

“Mukarram lost a lot of wealth due to four or five divorce settlements. Muffakham also mismanaged his wealth,” Nawab Haider Ali, another descendant, said. “Even if the government decides to take half the fund, it would still leave more than Rs 150 crore, and if the brothers decide to keep it themselves then we will not get anything.”

Mukarram moved to Australia in 1972 and, according to Najaf Ali, he had a huge sheep ranch in Western Australia and a sprawling mansion in Perth. In 1991, he was forced to sell both after ending up in debt and moved to Turkey. Muffakham lives in London and is doing reasonably well.

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