Businessman Karim Hirji is embroiled in a legal feud with his three stepchildren, who accuse him of grabbing the estate of their late mother Ziba Nanyonga Hirji alias Charm.
After lodging a civil suit in the Family division last December accusing Hirji of selling off the late Charm’s property illegally, the children have now petitioned the Aga Khan national council in Uganda for help.
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 reads.
Linda urged the Aga Khan national council to prevail over Hirji to have dignity for himself and for the Ismaili community.
“We may never succeed and continue to be deprived of any benefit from the estate of our late mother, but for as long as we live, the pain of betrayal will forever remain in our hearts,” she wrote.
By last Friday, Hirji’s lawyers had not filed a defence thus missing the January 15 deadline. Hirji couldn’t be reached for comment but his son, Eddy Hirji, said his father had instructed lawyers to file a defence.
The body controls the Ismaili community of which Hirji is a member. The children also want Charm’s remains exhumed to establish the cause of her ‘suspicious’ death.
The late Charm 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.
Hirji and Charm had three other children namely; Karima Hirji, Anisha Hirji and Nabila Hirji. 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.
“Dad has instructed counsel Masembe, who is still out of the country, to file a defence. Though some of the said properties were sold, daddy is also willing to have a peaceful settlement of the matter out of court, and not even before Aga Khan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Linda said that much as they are not opposed to an out-of-court settlement, Hirji has been reluctant to talk about the matter since their mother passed on. She added that the circumstances before and after her mother’s death portray Hirji as a “heartless person.”
“Shortly before her death, Hirji fraudulently withdrew $102,967 (Shs 358.6m) from her account, leaving a balance of $9,172 (Shs 31.9m). Upon obtaining probate from High court on November 19, 2004, Hirji immediately rushed and embarked on transferring all the properties registered in our mother’s names to his own benefit,” Linda said.
Linda said the properties include two residential premises in the UK, Jenina commercial building in Nansana and 10 hectares of land in Gayaza. The other properties are two plots apiece at Bugolobi and Nakulabye, one along Kira road and another on Mawanda road in Kampala.
Even though months have passed, Karim Aga Khan is yet to anser the petition of his ‘spiritual children’ either in spirit, or in person.