The widow of Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen, Sarah Wairimu, has won the first round of court battle against her estranged in-laws over control of the multi-million-shilling estate owned by her husband.
This is after the High Court in Nairobi suspended a grant of letters of the estate administration given to Ms Wairimu’s brother-in-law, Bernard Cohen, on May 18, 2021, based on Cohen’s last written Will.
Justice Mgure Thande also stopped Bernard and his sister Gabriel Hannah Van Straten from utilising the said grant to deal in any manner with Tob’s estate estimated to be worth Sh700 million.
At the centre of the dispute is a Sh400 million property in the leafy suburb of Kitisuru, shares at Tobs Limited, a tour firm Cohen Tours and Sh150 million cash in local and international banks.
The judge also ordered Nairobi-based lawyer Chege Kirundi to surrender in court Tob’s original written Will, which Ms Wairimu claims is fake.
On Wednesday, she informed court that she has the original Will. The particulars of the two documents are not similar, and now the court has been tasked with finding out which is valid.
In the Will held by Mr Kirundi, the widow was left empty-handed by her husband. The document is dated April 30, 2019.
The judge issued the directions following an application by Ms Wairimu, who protested that she was not furnished with a copy of the petition filed by Bernard and that there was collusion between siblings of the late tycoon and third parties.
Her advocates argue that the court proceedings that led to the issuance of the grant to Bernard are defective in substance, in that while she had a pending application seeking issuance of Cohen’s death certificate Bernard filed his case without presenting the document.
In the court papers, she is described as the sole surviving spouse of Cohen, who died in Nairobi on an unknown date between July 20 and September 13, 2019. She is an accused person in the murder.
At the same time, Tob’s relatives on Wednesday told court that they will file a case seeking to have the pleadings lodged by Ms Wairimu struck out of court.
The judge directed both parties to file their pleadings while the case will be heard on June 27-28 next year.
They are disputing Ms Wairimu’s use of the name Cohen in her identification.
“There has been a consistent misrepresentation of Sarah Wairimu Kamotho Cohen. She does not have documentation with the name Cohen,” said lawyer Shadrack Wambui for Ms Gabriel.
He described Ms Wairimu as “a stranger in court” due to her identification.
“In Tob’s lifetime she did not use that name and cannot use it posthumous. It is deliberate confusion that is meant to obscure the mind of court when she uses the name and is a suspect and an accused person in a criminal case,” said the lawyer.
But Ms Wairimu, through lawyer Phillip Murgor, said there is no dispute that she was the sole spouse of the businessman.