The billionaire Hinduja brothers are locked in a legal dispute in the UK over their family fortune, with a July 2014 letter signed by the four siblings at the centre of the row, court documents show.
The matter came to light when the UK High Court ruled Tuesday on a plea seeking to dismiss the letter.
The letter, and a related document, had stated that the brothers appoint each other as their executors and that assets held in any one brother’s name belong to all four.
The plea to dismiss the letter was filed by Srichand Hinduja—the eldest brother—against the other three—Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok Hinduja. The brothers are worth a total $13 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
According to the court ruling, Srichand had sought a declaration that the letter had no legal effect as a will, power of attorney or other binding document, or that the documents had been revoked.
Srichand also sought additional relief in the form of an injunction restraining the use of the documents and an account of the persons to whom the documents have been submitted.
In her judgment, Justice Sarah Falk ruled that the 84-year-old Srichand’s daughter Vinoo can act on her father’s behalf as his “litigation friend” and safeguard her father’s interests due to his ill health as a result of dementia. Vinoo was supported by her mother, Madhu, and sister Shanu in this plea.
“There is no evidence to indicate that Vinoo’s statement that her father has asked her to act for him in the proceedings because he is unable to do so is anything other than accurate,” Justice Falk said.
The judgment also referred to the dispute over the group’s Hinduja Bank in Switzerland and noted that, in the wake of Srichand’s ill health, the other three brothers sought to take over control of the bank in 2018.
The three brothers argued that if the 2014 letter is declared invalid then all assets in Srichand’s name would pass to Vinoo and her immediate family on Srichand’s death, including the entire shareholding in Hinduja Bank.
Separately, the three brothers said in a statement that it was unfortunate these proceedings were taking place as they go against the family’s values and principles, especially that "everything belongs to everyone and nothing belongs to anyone".
"We intend to defend the claim to uphold these dearly held family values," they said. "We would also stress that this litigation will not have any impact on our global businesses, which will continue to function as they have been," they added.
The diversified Hinduja Group was founded by Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, and is now run by his four sons. The group has business interests across a range of sectors, from automotive and IT to banking and hospitality. Its Mumbai-listed companies include vehicle maker Ashok Leyland Ltd, IndusInd Bank and Hinduja Global Solutions Ltd. Shares of all three companies have slumped over the past few months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.