Jayesh Shah is a man who should be accustomed to making headlines.
He is a multimillionaire Zimbabwean businessman who has more than his fair share of admirers and scorners. Every prominent Zimbabwean person, be it in government or business, who has ever needed a bridging loan or some kind of financing and was unable to get funding from the banks and other financial companies knows who Jayesh Shah is. The wealthy Indian businessman prefers to fly under the radar.
For a long time, one would be hard-pressed to find a picture of this elusive business tycoon on the internet. He runs a company called Al Shams Global which news reports suggest that has interests in the distribution of hardware.
Shah made headlines earlier this month when the news wires broke the story that the central bank of Zambia had been ordered by the High Court of Zambia to settle a longstanding dispute with the businessman.
The settlement resulted in a very fat payout for Shah. A payout of over US$ 100 million. US$ 139 million, to be precise. Jayesh Shah is a businessman who clearly has a lot of things going for him. He always appears to be flush with cash if his loan book of prominent Zimbabwean figures is anything to go by. Now he has the Zambian central bank on the hook for almost US$ 140 million. Readers who have respect for discreet and media-shy multimillionaire businesspeople will have a lot of respect for Shah.
The Zambia debacle for Shah began twenty-four years ago. It was finally resolved last month when money was seized from Jayesh Shah and his company Al Shams Building Materials Limited. According to the news site New Zimbabwe, “Justice Edward Luputa Musona sitting at the Zambian 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 the year 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.
It all began when on the 16th of January 1998, Zambia’s Drug Enforcement Commission informed Al Shams’ bankers, First Merchant Bank Limited and the Attorney General that it had seized the firm’s accounts that had US$ 1 million in cash between them. Court papers indicate that a short while later, First Merchant Bank was placed under receivership, and the central bank, the Bank of Zambia, ordered its liquidation the following year. In response to these developments in 1999, Jayesh Shah and Al Shams instituted legal proceedings n the Zambia High Court, which ruled in October 1999 that the seizure of the money was illegal.
New Zimbabwe went on to report that 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. The culmination of this dispute is that Shah and his company are in for a particularly large windfall of cash. The reclusive Indian business tycoon is said to have business interests in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and India.
Despite his wins in business Jayesh Shah has never successfully shaken off the controversy that comes from the notable success a person enjoys in any endeavour. Success always breeds as many admirers as it does critics. Tendai Biti, who was Zimbabwe’s finance minister at one time during the Government of National Unity, called Jayesh Shah a “loan shark of Indian descent”.
The opposition leader made this highly disparaging remark after revelations that Jayesh Shah and another equally controversial business, Nicholas van Hoogstraten were providing cash loans to Zimbabweans against their immovable properties on unsustainable and usurious terms when the inevitable eventuality of default occurred by the borrowers, the lenders Jayesh Shah and Nicholas van Hoogstraten would move in and realize the property against which the original loan was secured.
Van Hoogstraten conducted his lending business through his proxy, another prominent Harare businessman Frank Tawanda Buyanga. Around 2011 nearly every news outlet ran stories of a company called Hamilton Finance Private Limited that was lending to cash-strapped borrowers on terms they could not afford and would quickly realize the properties pledged as collateral as soon as borrowers defaulted.
Jayesh Shah counted very prominent and well-to-do businessmen as borrowers and had acrimonious disputes with most, if not all, of them. Former ZANU PF stalwart and princeling cum businessman Daniel Shumba had a run-in with Shah, which cost him dearly. The two were in a brawl over an upmarket property in Harare estimated to be worth US$ 4.2 million.
The case ended up going to the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe. Shumba also wrote to the Judicial Services Commission, which is the governing body of the legal fraternity, notifying them of his intention to pursue fraud charges against a sitting judge, Justice Joseph Mafusire and Jayesh Shah. Bulawayo 24 reported that “…the matter involved a property transaction that took place in 2007 in which Shumba borrowed money from Shah to save his property in South Africa from being auctioned by a bank in that country.
Although the loan was registered as a bond against the South African property, Shumba alleges that Shah went on to force him to give additional security in the form of a property in Harare, which property he went on to seize in connivance with his partner, Mahabeer, and Mafusire, who was the duo’s lawyer before he was appointed to the High Court in 2012. Shumba alleges that the trio falsified documents and committed perjury by lying to the courts to secure favourable judgments in their favour.” The news outlet said.
Patterson Timba, the former banker and businessman, has also had a run-in with Shah over loans that went bad. The late minister of state for Harare province Oliver Chidawu also had a bruising tussle with Jayesh Shah. Chidawu had borrowed money from Shah but failed to repay, and the Indian tycoon went on to realize the security that had been pledged to secure the loans. The result is that Chidawu lost his large shareholdings in furniture companies. Love him or hate, but Jayesh Shah has very deep pockets, and the important and well-heeled in Harare are aware of this and have beaten a path for loans. After his current victory in Zambia, Jayesh Shah’s pockets just got deeper. US$ 139 million deeper.