A businessman who forged his mother’s will in a bid to inherit a £40 million share of the family’s Malaysian oil plantation has been jailed for five and a half years.
Girish Dahyabhai Patel, 71, used the fake document to launch a High Court claim for control of Prabhavati Dahyabhai Patel’s estate after she left her entire fortune to his elder brother, Yashwant Patel, following her death in 2011.
The inheritance included a one-third share in the “jewel in the crown” family asset, Aumkar Plantations, which owns 20,000-acres of land planted with palm oil in Malaysia.
Following a failed legal action in the Seychelles, Patel claimed a 2005 will had been signed by his mother and witnessed in the UK, replacing the original 1986 document and leaving everything to him.
The text was superimposed on a blank piece of pre-signed headed note paper – used by the family to carry out business in the pre-digital age – with the header and footer cropped with an office guillotine.
Patel lied under oath in a probate claim in the High Court and encouraged witnesses to give false evidence about the will, which was found to be worth 50 million US dollars (£39.95 million).
However, the document was found to be a forgery by a judge and the inheritance went to Yashwant, a doctor in the US.
Patel, from Highgate, north London, was later jailed for a year for contempt of court in December 2017, serving six months.
He was jailed for five and a half years at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday after being privately prosecuted by his nephew, Prashant Patel, the son of the defendant’s eldest brother, Rajnikant Patel, who lives in Australia.
Patel was also disqualified from being a director for 10 years after pleading guilty to counts of fraud, forgery, perverting the course of justice and perjury between 2013 and 2015.
Judge Marc Dight said: “Not only has there been a very serious impact on your family.
“You have lost your reputation, your status, your ability to carry on business and your wealth and income.”
Patel was one of four brothers involved in the family’s business interests, which were spread around the world, including in England, the US, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore.
The court heard his family has spent about £4.5 million in litigation responding to his attempts to assert control of various family assets following a breakdown in relations.
The fraud charge relates to Patel’s attempts to gain control of a UK company, Barrowfen Properties, which held a single commercial property in Tooting, south London.
The asset was worth £10 million with partial planning permission in 2014 but valued at £44 million after a development, which included a hotel, student accommodation and retail outlets.
Patel removed his younger brother, Suresh Patel, who lives in Singapore, as a director of the firm before forging his resignation letter.
He also removed two pages, showing another family company was a shareholder, from a register of members before inserting two others in the traditional leather-bound book.
“This was a committed, determined, sophisticated and high-value fraud over a number of years against members of his own family,” said prosecutor Gideon Cammerman KC.
“It was committed by forging documents, telling lies, then pursuing those lies in most cases to the bitter end in court.”
Mark Cotter KC, defending, said Patel had “dedicated his life” to his family, his children and the development of “an extremely successful global business”.
He relinquished his claim to an interest in Aumkar and gave up his shares in Barrowfen in a settlement with the family and Mr Cotter added: “He is a man who has lost everything.”