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Mon 12 Aug 2013 10:04 AM

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Kuwait, India in spat over flat owned by royal family

Kuwait officials claim an Indian developer used forged documents to gain tenancy to the apartment

Kuwait, India in spat over flat owned by royal family
(AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Billions of dollars worth of trade agreements between Kuwait and India are at stake as a legal battle over a Mumbai apartment owned by the Kuwait royal family threatens diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Faisal Essa, consul general of Kuwait in India since 1990, has petitioned the Bombay High Court to take action over claims a developer Sanjay Punamiya allegedly used forged documents to obtain tenancy rights to a 7,500 sqft apartment and office space owned by the royal family.

The property, which is located in south Mumbai's upmarket Marine Drive was inherited by the heirs to the former Emir of Kuwait.

Punamiya, who was accused of forgery, cheating, criminal trespass, theft and criminal intimidation, argued that the tenancy was legitimate and dismissed Essa’s allegations as “bogus”.

“I have not purchased the flat. I have rented it by paying INR50,000 ($820) as three months' advance rent by cheque in October 2012. I have a receipt and have done nothing illegal. It is only when disputes arose that I had to go to court, which has passed an order in my favour by granting an injunction," he was quoted as saying by the Times of India newspaper.

Following an initial investigation Indian police dismissed the case as a civil dispute. Punamiya subsequently lodged a separate police complaint, alleging Essa had pointed a gun at him and threatened him. This resulted in an Indian magistrate in February filing a case against the Kuwait diplomat.

The 83-year-old is currently in Kuwait recovering from a kidney operation and is likely to be arrested when he returns to India, despite his diplomatic immunity.

As part of the latest petition, Essa claims the police inspector who investigated the original case was in biased towards Punamiya. The officer has denied the allegation.

In the latest twist in the case, New Delhi Television (NDTV), reported this week Sheikha Fadyah Saad Al Sabah, a daughter of the late Emir of Kuwait, had written to the Kuwaiti Ambassador in India, Sami Mohammad Al Sulaiman, to complain about the handling of the matter.

“It is with deep anguish that we record our utmost discontent and displeasure over the situation that has been created due to apparent malpractices and unchecked corrupt indulgence exhibited by the Mumbai Police... We are indeed disturbed and amazed to record the catastrophic manner in which the state administration has handled the matter," the Kuwaiti royal is reported to have said in the letter.

A copy was also sent to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior government ministers and warned of “the international ramifications that such an act of an individual cheat may have on the national interest of India."

Kuwaiti officials have demanded an investigation into the matter "through diplomatic channels" and said the fallout could have implications for the 20 trade agreements worth nearly $18bn signed between the two countries.

“This isn't about the money," a legal representative of the Kuwait royal family was quoted as saying. “This is about Arabian pride and honour.”

mumeen 6 years ago

How can a 7500 sft royal apartment in Marine Drive be given on a three months' rent advance of only INR50,000. This is unbelievable. As a general practice, nobody lets out their own apartments/villas, let alone the Royals. There must be something grossly wrong with this Indian lawyer who claims tenancy. This is an absurd and ridiculous tenancy. It's in Indian Govt's interest to interfere on the matter immediately and let the Indian lawyer get out of this fraudulent case. It is totally incredible that a royal apartment would be let out to him.

RAH 6 years ago

The actual news story out of Kuwait is that the royal member of family threatened to use the country (Kuwait) to back her up.Kuwait has never gotten involved in previous spats and this time will be no different. Kuwait will not risk upsetting India and its huge relations with it for the sake of a scam some Indian did to this lady.The government wont do it, nor will parliament allow it to happen nor will the people of Kuwait stand quiet IF the government was to hold billions in trade for the sake of a royal member. It has never happened in the history of Kuwait and this would not serve as a precedence.

Vix 6 years ago

It is certainly unfair. Agreed. may be the guy was inspired by a bunch of traffic penalty linked deportation orders served on expats in Kuwait. Creative corruptions meets raw arrogance. Some fun, indeed !

Mohammed 6 years ago

The monthly rent of mere 100 Sq Feet flat in that area of Mumbai is more than Rupees 50,000. There is indeed something very much fishy / fraud and certain groups are involved who are trying to amass te property. But that is India anything can happen and surprisingly people get away with it too.If that is happening to a royal, just imagine the plight of a common man in India!!!!!!!

Sandeep Jain 6 years ago

According to the Indian rules, the building comes under the "pagdi" system, which means that the tenants of the building are entitled to pay Rs. 2,000-3,000 per month for 2,000-2,500 sq. feet. And not just this building but all the buildings that come under the "Pagdi" system. Mr. Faizal, the so-called holder of the power of attorney is misguiding the Royal Family for his own interests and to hide the cheating he has done. The Royal family should rather meet with the opposite party once and understand the actual rules and reasoning.