Businessman 'repeatedly lied' during evidence in cash battle with estranged wife

Updated: 

A High Court judge has concluded a businessman dubbed ''Africa's youngest billionaire'' by journalists lied during the latest stage of a cash battle with his estranged wife.

Ashish Thakkar and travel journalist Meera Manek, who are both in their 30s, separated in 2013 after four years of marriage and disagree on the size of the fortune at stake.

He says he has assets totalling less than £500,000 but Miss Manek says he is a billionaire.

Mr Justice Moor had been asked to make decisions about who owned business assets.

He heard Mr Thakkar had "joined forces'' with his parents and other family members to create a collection of companies known as the Mara Group.

The judge was told the ''beneficial ownership'' of that holding company was ''hotly disputed''.

Mr Justice Moor has concluded Mr Thakkar, who has worked with former Barclays Bank chief executive Bob Diamond, has a 100% interest in the Mara Group.

He has also concluded Mr Thakkar has a 100% interest in a group called Inspire Holdings.

The judge says Mr Thakkar and two relatives "repeatedly lied" when giving evidence at a recent family court trial in London.

Detail has emerged in a ruling by the judge.

Mr Justice Moor said the ruling could be reported.

He is expected to make decisions on how much cash Miss Manek should get after further hearings.

The judge said he heard evidence from three "Thakkar witnesses", Mr Thakkar, 35, Mr Thakkar's father, Jagdish, 68, and Mr Thakkar's sister Ahuti, 41.

He added: "I find I have been repeatedly lied to by all three respondent Thakkar witnesses."

A spokesman for Mr Thakkar said on Tuesday the businessman had "no comment".

In July, Mr Thakkar lost an opening skirmish when Mr Justice Moor ruled the couple should not finalise a divorce until decisions had been made on how much Miss Manek would walk away with.

The businessman said the divorce should be finalised.

Miss Manek said it should not be finalised until decisions on the division of money had been made.

Mr Justice Moor ruled in her favour.

The judge said Miss Manek might be at a disadvantage if she was fighting as an ex-wife rather than a wife.

Mr Justice Moor has heard how Mr Thakkar's parents were forced to leave Uganda in the early 1970s to escape Idi Amin's exile of the ''non-African community''.

They had lost everything and ''started again'' in the UK, working in factories and then setting up their own business, lawyers said.

Mr Thakkar was born in Leicester in 1981.

His family returned to Africa in 1993 and settled in Rwanda, shortly before hundreds of thousands were killed in a genocide.

Mr Thakkar saw atrocities as a teenager.

He and his family were evacuated to Hotel des Mille Collines, the hotel in the film Hotel Rwanda, before escaping to Kenya and settling in Uganda.

The judge was told Mr Thakkar left school at 15 with no qualifications and started to trade in computer hardware after his parents lent him about £3,500.

Specialist financial journalists have described Mr Thakkar as ''Africa's youngest billionaire''.

In June 2014, Mr Thakkar featured in a Financial Times article which indicated Mr Thakkar had been described as Africa's ''youngest dollar billionaire''.

Mr Thakkar told the newspaper: ''I don't like the 'Africa's youngest billionaire' title.''