Monday, 19 January 2015

You think you've got a problem with your bank ...

... but pity the Nizams of Hyderabad.

On 20 September 1948, £1 million was paid in some respect on behalf of the seventh Nizam, the absolute ruler of the largest and richest of the Indian princely states, into an account opened with the Westminster Bank Limited in the name of the first High Commissioner of the recently formed sovereign state of Pakistan, Mr Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola.  It is worth noting that the Nizam's decision to remain independent of the newly form state of India was one that India did not like: it launched 'Operation Polo', and on 18 September 1948 the Nizam's army surrendered and Hyderabad was annexed to India.

A little over a week later, on 27 September 1948, the Nizam sought to reverse the transfer of money to Mr Rahimtoola, claiming that it had been made without his authority.

To cut a long story short-ish, the money is still there. It's now about £35 million.

The seventh Nizam was succeeded on his death in 1967 by his grandson, the present (eighth) Nizam of Hyderabad, High Exalted Highness Prince Mukkaram Jah. There are other family interests: Mr Justice Henderson, a High Court judge, tells us that "the seventh Nizam is reputed to have had as many as 49 concubines and around 150 illegitimate children".

Various steps have been taken by various parties to get the money. The most recent appears to be a claim by Pakistan led by Cherie Booth QC. It is not going very well, as the link will show. Some of Pakistan's claims have been regarded as "unsustainable" and "unfounded", and even Pakistan's attempt to drop the case altogether has failed.

What's next? Well, I hope the current Nizam is not holding his breath.

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