Zimbabwean tycoon wins 24-year legal battle against Bank of Zambia, set to get US$139 million refund

HIGH Court of Zambia has ordered the country’s central bank to pay back US$139M to Jayesh Shah. The High Court of Zambia has ordered the Bank of Zambia to pay back US$139, 191, 386 seized in 1998 to Zimbabwean business tycoon, Jayesh Shah, and his company Al Shams Building Materials Limited.

The judgement follows a protracted legal dispute stretching over the past 24 years.

Justice Edward Musona sitting at the High Court Thursday found the bank at fault, bringing an end to the long-running dispute.

“This is proper particularly since the history of litigation, in this case, dates back to 1998. It is 24 years old in the courts. The Bank of Zambia has unduly and unjustly perpetuated this case,” said the judge in delivering his ruling.

He added, “This dispute has been in a back and forth movement, from High Court to Supreme Court.

“This is sad. Litigation must have an end. 24 years in court is too long. Bank of Zambia has abused its immunity against execution. This should end because it is not good governance.

“Now, therefore, I order that leave to appeal is granted but subject to a deposit by the Bank of Zambia into the court of 30% of the judgment sum being US$139, 191, 386 within the period during which an appeal may be lodged. Parties may proceed to uplift this judgment,” ruled Musona.

Shah has vast business interests in Zimbabwe, Zambia and India, among other countries.

The background

On January 16, 1998, Zambia’s Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) informed Al Shams Building Materials Limited’s bankers – First Merchant Bank Zambia Limited – and the Attorney General that it had seized the firm’s accounts with over US$1 million pending investigations.

According to court papers, just months later, the bank was placed under receivership and on March 16, 1999, the Bank of Zambia ordered its liquidation.

Al Shams Building Materials Limited and Shah instituted legal proceedings in the Zambia High Court, which on October 12, 1999 ruled that the money should be returned to the owners since the seizure was unlawful and illegal.

The court ruled that in the case of First Merchant Bank failing to reimburse Shah and his company, the Bank of Zambia was held liable and, in the alternative, the Attorney General was ordered to pay if the funds could not be found. – Lusaka Times

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