McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
The court has resolved a long-running dispute between two Khemlani brothers over ownership of four family businesses in favour of the defendant and older sibling.
Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Hibbert has ruled that there was no agreement as claimed by businessman Suresh Khemlani to transfer all shares in Topaz Investments Limited and three retailing operations to him.
Suresh contended that Raju agreed verbally to transfer all his shares to him in return for being relieved of his debt servicing obligations and in exchange for taking over the Jewellerama store at the Mall Plaza in Kingston.
Starting in 2006, he filed claims against Raju; Topaz Investments, the umbrella company through which investments are channelled; Kay Mart Limited; Public Supermarket Limited and Lord & Lady Limited.
The shares were never actually transferred and both brothers remain equal partners in the companies.
Justice Hibbert said he was not convinced by the evidence that there was a transfer agreement. He dismissed Suresh's claims and awarded costs to Raju.
Suresh filed an appeal on September 20.
The Supreme Court case was heard between April 2012 and September 11, 2013.
Attorneys Richard Small, Denise Kitson, Suzanne Risden-Hunter and Kimberly McDowell represented Suresh, while attorneys Bert Samuels and Roxanne Mars represented Raju.
The local business history of the family, as laid out in Hibbert's judgment, began around 1968 when Indian national Madhu Khemlani migrated to Jamaica, where he started a jewellery manufacturing business.
In 1970, he was joined in Jamaica by son Suresh and in 1971 they opened Topaz Jewellers in Premier Plaza, Kingston.
In 1972, they were joined in Jamaica by the older son, Raju, and in 1974 they opened a second store, Jewellerama, in the Mall Plaza.
In 1976, Madhu and Raju relocated to the United States where they also started businesses. Suresh, who remained in Jamaica, diversified the local business, and opened a garment retail store in the Mall Plaza.
Madhu returned to Jamaica in either 1980 or 1981 and rejoined the family business.
In 1982, Topaz Investments, through which the Khemlanis started the development of the Manor Centre, a shopping complex at Constant Spring Road, was incorporated and the shares split between the father and Suresh.
Over the next two years, Public Supermarket and Lord & Lady were incorporated and the shares divided between the father and two brothers.
Raju returned to Jamaica in 1986.
On February 24, 1989, Suresh transferred to Raju half of his shareholdings in Topaz Investments.