Karim Hirji’s daughters have dismissed as “untrue” and “unfortunate” claims by their half-sister, Lind Birungi, that the wealthy businessman worked with powerful friends and lawyers to grab the estate of their late mother Ziba Nanyonga Hirji alias Charm.
They said Linda, who has put up a spirited fight for Charm’s estate, was left out of the Will by their mother.
The late Charm had three children with her former husband Robert Birungi 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.
Charm was later blessed with three children with Hirji – Anisha Hirji, Karima 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.
Linda accused 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.
Linda further appealed to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to intervene with the view of finding a lasting solution to their concerns.
Half-sisters speak out
However, in a statement sent to ChimpReports on Tuesday, Linda’s half-sisters, Anisha Hirji, Karima Hirji and Nabila Hirji expressed shock at Linda’s public remarks, saying her attempt to “to blackmail us as a family through false sensationalised claims and to intimidate and defame witnesses in the matter through weaponised fake news on social media is deplorable.”
They narrated that throughout her (Linda) growing years “our father provided for every financial aspect of Linda’s care, upkeep and education both in Uganda and in the United Kingdom. At the time of our mother’s death, Linda was 33 years old, had left home and was married.”
“In the course of our mother’s marriage to our father, our father as a loving husband gifted to her various properties. In her will, our mother stated that she left her estate to our father if she survived him for a stipulated period and if he did not then the estate should go to the three of us, the children of her union with our father Karim Hirji (Anisha Hirji, Karima Hirji and Nabila Hirji),” the trio emphasised.
“Although our father did survive her for the stipulated period, he nonetheless by declaration of trust passed on all our mother’s estate to us, her three daughters by him.”
The multi-million dollar property row has dragged in powerful individuals and threatens to tear apart an influential and wealthy family.
Hirji, a successful businessman, owns the Imperial Hotels in Kampala’s prime locations.
In her press statement, Linda claimed Hirji forged a Will to obtain a grant of probate to indicate that he and his employee Joseph Ssempebwa were beneficiaries of the deceased’s estates.
In response, Anisha, Karima and Nabila observed: “Linda has continually sought to contest our mother’s Will and her not having been one of the beneficiaries. Initially that was through her then lawyers, Bitangaro & Company Advocates, on the basis that she was a dependent relative for whom no maintenance had been provided but when it was pointed out that as a 33-year-old married lady at the time of our mother’s death she was not a dependent in law or fact, she then took to claiming that either the Will was forged or her having been excluded was proof that our mother was not of able or sound mind when she made the Will.”
They also denied reports that Attorney General William Byaruhanga and businessman Patrick Bitature planned to grab their family properties.
“They are one of the few family friends who at their own expense travelled to London to visit our mother in hospital and to commiserate with us and they deserve better. Our mother’s estate is in our hands and no one has sought to take it away from us.”
Linda alleged that lawyer Masembe Kanyerezi of MMAKS Advocates was working closely with Hirji to frustrate the case and steal their mother’s estate.
“Parliament should help investigate our mum’s property that was transferred five days to her death. Mum was in coma and couldn’t understand what was happening. She had started taking strong medicine that impaired her judgment four months before her death,” said Linda.
But Anisha, Karima and Nabila said the lawyers “had nothing to with the drawing of the contested Will and only acted for us in defending our interests in the suit filed by Linda and they have done so both ably,” adding, “Linda has held several cordial meetings with Masembe who she knows personally and well in attempting a settlement of the matter and so it is unfortunate that she should seek for sensational gain and to play victim to make personal attacks against him as she has also done against the witnesses who will speak together with us about our mother’s state of mind when she made the will.”
It remains unclear if the matter will be resolved amicably in the near future.
However, Anisha, Karima and Nabila extended an olive hand to Linda, saying, they have always been committed to “working out an amicable settlement” with her for “her grievance at being left out of our mother’s Will.”
The family of departed Treasury Secretary Chris Kassami on Monday denied reports that William Byaruhanga sought to grab their properties.
“William (Byaruhanga) has been a good friend to our family. He was very close to my husband. He is more like a brother. We look up to him as a family. We have been through thick and thin,” said Podi Kassami, the widow of Kassami.
“The first person to respond if we had a problem was William. Whatever they are saying is utter nonsense,” she added.
Jasi Kassami, the deceased Treasury Secretary, described the claims against Byaruhanga as “ridiculous” and “shocking”, adding, “We were lucky” to have William as an executor of their father’s will.
“We would be in court if there was a dispute about it. What we are trying to do is honour his (Kassami) memory and grow the assets that were left there. Everything was followed to the letter… we had support, someone who had knowledge of the law… As a friend and trustee, he (Byaruhanga) honoured his responsibility and gone above and beyond as an uncle to me and a friend to my late father,” said Jasi.