Zimbabwe: Judgment Reserved in Waverley Empire Dogfight

14 October 2019

Victor Cohen must be turning in his grave with anger and disgust as a dogfight has erupted between his daughters and nephew over his company, Waverley Plastics.

Cohen's legacy at Waverley Plastics (Pvt) Ltd, is certainly up in smoke as the feud played out at the High Court last week, with his two daughters Ms Amanda Berkowitz (nee Cohen) and Ms Belynda Halfon (nee Cohen) contested the alleged fraudulent takeover of the multi-million-dollar family business by their nephew Mr Aron Vico.

The siblings claim they were fraudulently stripped of their shareholding in the company by Mr Vico.

They want the court to nullify the irregular transfer of shares to their nephew, who is currently running the affairs of the companies.

Waverley Plastics is a sister company to Waverley Blankets and part of the business empire founded by their father the late Victor Cohen, 24 years ago.

High Court Judge Justice Mary Zimba-Dube heard how Mr Vico allegedly fixed documents to acquire majority shareholding in the company under the directorship of the Cohen siblings.

Through their lawyer, Mr Zwelibanzi Lunga, the Cohen sisters told the judge, how on March 20, 2017 Mr Vico caused the issuance of allotment of shares of 400 shares to himself and 145 to his grandfather.

"The allotment of the shares was effected without a resolution of the company directors," said Mr Lunga. "The allotment was unlawful and cannot be allowed to stand."

The court also heard that the irregular issuance of allotment of 400 shares that gave Mr Vico control over Waverley Plastics, was done through an accounting firm called AA Omar, also listed as respondent in the matter.

"There is virtually no evidence on record that Victor Cohen during his lifetime authorised the transfer of shares, as claimed by the first respondent (Mr Vico)," sid Mr Lunga.

He said a series of the company emails produced in court were evident enough to confirm Ms Berkowitz directorship in the company.

The emails were instructing Amanda to sign certain bank documents as a director of the company.

Earlier, Mr Lunga also told the court that his clients had proper legal footing to sue Mr Vico given their direct and substantial interest in the affairs of the company.

Mr Vico, who is being represented by Mr Herbert Mutasa questioned the legal competency of Ms Berkowitz and Ms Halfon to sue in the matter.

"There must be recognisable legal rights which must form the basis of an application for declarator, which the applicants are seeking," said Mr Mutasa.

He said there was a material dispute of facts that could not be resolved on papers. Mr Mutasa also produced supporting affidavit compiled by business consultant Mr Maxwell Maheya, saying he was given instructions by the late Cohen to allot shares to members of his family.

This was strenuously challenged by the Cohen sisters who argued that Mr Maheya was a charlatan and unknown to any members of the family.

Mr Mutasa, however, moved for the application to set aside the allotment of shares to be dismissed or set for trial.

Justice Zimba-Dube reserved her ruling to allow her time to study the submissions made by both parties' counsel, who have taken their fight into the courts. The family also has a couple more litigations lined up in the superior courts.

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