Zambian multi-millionaire entrepreneur Rajan Mahtani has lost ownership of Zambezi Portland Cement, a leading cement manufacturer in the southern African country, as the High Court of Zambia awarded full ownership of the company to the Ventriglia family of Italy on Monday.
The resolution follows a 10-year court battle between the Ventriglia family and Rajan Mahtani, a Zambian businessman of Indian origin. Mahtani had always claimed that he owned a 58% controlling stake in the business as payment for organizing financing for the Ventriglia family years ago, but the Ventriglia family insisted that he had no claim to the stake, asserting full ownership of the company.
The Ventriglia family is one of the wealthiest and most powerful business families in Zambia today. In 1957, the patriarch of the family, Antonio Ventriglia along with his wife and children arrived Zambia from Italy. They established a Terazzo company, Ital Terazzo, which eventually became very successful. In an effort to diversify their investments in Zambia, the family decided to venture into cement manufacturing, establishing the Zambezi Portland Cement Company.
The family approached Rajan Mahtani, a popular financier and business mogul who was a family friend to the Ventriglias, and asked him to help arrange financing for the new cement company. Mahtani, who was the Chairman and controlling shareholder of Finance Bank, Zambia, used his influence to syndicate a $100 million loan from the European Development Fund and the Kenya’s PTA Bank. In return, the Ventriglia family orally agreed to sell a 49% stake in the cement company to Rajan Mahtani’s investment vehicle, Finsbury Investments, for a discounted price of $60 million – an amount Mahtani never paid. The Ventriglia family soon needed additional financing in order to increase the cement plant’s capacity and Mahtani was on hand to help arrange an additional loan, in return for an additional 9% stake in the company for a discounted price.
Even though Mahtani never paid for the shares he orally agreed to buy, he allegedly fraudulently procured his company secretaries to alter the register of Members and filed with Zambia’s Registrar of Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) a fake photocopy of share transfer certificates indicating that he was a member and shareholder in Zambezi Portland Cement. The Ventriglia family has insisted that they never transferred the shares to Mahtani’s company. On Monday, the court ruled that Mahtani had indeed falsified share transfer certificates in the company, and as such did not own any shares in Zambezi Portland Cement.
“Mahtani has been unable to produce the original signed copies of the share transfer certificates because they simply do not exist and he never paid for the shares. As such, complete ownership of the company firmly rests with the Antonio Ventriglia family,” a spokesperson of Zambezi Portland Cement confirmed to this reporter via email