Rajan Mahtani, the owner of Finance Bank and a close supporter of President Sata’s government, is accused by the owners of the Zambezi Portland Cement (ZPC) company of unlawfully seizing their property through brute force and forged documents to force the company into receivership.
According to court documents leaked to Zambia Reports attached below, Mahtani’s former lawyer Zaheeda Essa has acknowledged in a witness statement that Mahtani used photocopied signatures and backdated share transfer forms as part of a corporate raid to steal control of ZPC.
“The Plaintiff [Mahtani] has never bought any shares in Zambezi Portland Cement Limited,” Essa declares in the witness statement. “The document purporting to be share transfer forms bear signatures of the Defendants photocopied from the Shareholders’ Agreement and then backdated.”
According to the document, originally dated Feb. 10, 2011 but made public for the first time today, Ms. Essa, who served as Group Legal Counsel to the Mahtani Group of Companies, including Finsbury Investments, recanted earlier testimony she had made in the case “under duress” from Mahtani.
“The share transfer forms were prepared in Lusaka at the Plaintiff’s in the absence of the Defendants, months after the company was put into receivership,” Essa declared. “The instructions to forge the share transfer forms came from Dr. Rajan Mahtani and this was all planned by the said Dr. Rajan Mahtani way before any discussion about shares.”
The original owners of Zambezi Portland Cement, the family of Antonio Ventriglia of Ndola, are seeking the restoration of their lawful ownership of the company before the High Court, but the case appears to be stalled after a highly unusual move by Supreme Court Justice Lombe Chibesakunda to contradict her own order from 2010 to reinstate the previous board appointed by Mahtani.
The court document may explain in part why Ms. Essa has faced harassment in the past by the PF authorities and at least one arrest, allegedly at the orders of Mahtani. In 2011, Ms. Essa filed a lawsuit against Mahtani and the Post newspaper for defamation of character.
While the Zambian legal situation appears unclear, international efforts have been more successful. Mr. Mahtani lost his case against the Ventriglias before the Swiss Arbitration Panel.
The takeover case of this cement plant has raised questions among the foreign investment community, who are concerned about the potential wielding of influence over the Zambian courts, the police, and immigration authorities. Mahtani’s group originally seized control of ZPC with the assistance of some 200 armed police officers, while other members of the Ventriglia family have been deported under false circumstances, sources tell Zambia Reports.