New twist to Waverley empire saga

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE fight between daughters of the late Victor Eric Cohen, CEO of the Waverley Blankets and associated companies’ empire and their nephew Aron Vico rages on with the latter now accusing the daughters of fabrication against him.

Cohen’s daughters, Amanda Berkowitz (nee Cohen) and her sister Belinda Halfon nee Cohen have been up in arms with Vico who is the Waverley empire’s current managing director, for the last three years after he allegedly tried to throw them out of their father’s empire.

Berkowitz recently approached the High Court seeking to be joined to the ZACC proceedings which includes at least six associated companies.

The sisters are complaining that they were denied important information regarding their  companies as shareholders and directors as their nephew was trying to elbow them out by changing directorships and various shareholding structures over the span of a host of companies.

Vico and associates including Company Secretary Laxi Boddapati are being accused of forging documents and signatures as well as denying access to company documents.

To date, the sisters and other shareholders have allegedly been denied access to company documents and financials.

Together with other shareholders, they have not received a single penny in dividends.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has of late issued seven warrants of search and seizure against Vico to recover some of the documents used to acquire the companies and the properties without the knowledge of other shareholders.

Vico has however made court applications trying to block Zacc from carrying out its work.

In a new twist, Vico has announced in his notice to oppose Berkowitz that he has withdrawn all his applications blocking Zacc.

He also said the application by Berkowitz was not necessary adding that he never tried to shut Cohen’s daughters by denying them access to important documents or in any way.

“I aver that the application for joinder has been overtaken by events  because all the case numbers that are cited under paragraph 16 of the founding affidavit were withdrawn as more fully appears from the respective notices of withdrawal,” said Vico.

The notices of withdrawal notices were attached to his response.

He added, “Therefore no purpose will be served by a substantive response to the contents of these paragraphs suffice to mention that to the extent that any insinuations of fraudulent conduct are made against me, the rejected and the applicants are out to strict proof thereof.

“As I will demonstrate in the course of this affidavit, this application is based on falsehoods, which on its own is a basis for its dismissal with costs on a higher scale.”

Berkowitz in her application stated that Vico and Company Secretary Boddapati had never availed vital documents or financial information to herself and Halfon including their lawyers and international accountants.

She explained the pain of going to Registrar of Companies offices in a bid to dig out some information.

She also told the court of how she had to learn about some changes after she visited the Registrar of Companies herself upon realising that Vico was playing mind games.

Cohen purportedly gave his daughters each a 33 percent share ownership in his various companies save for Waverley Blankets.

However, Vico is accused of having changed everything.

He said all these were lies.

“As at the date of the late Mr Victor Eric Cohen’s death, the first applicant herein was not a 33 percentage shareholder in the concerned entities. If she contends to the contrary, she is out to strict proof thereof.

“I also aver that at all material times, those documents to which the applicants are legal entitled were made available to them as long as such documents existed. Accordingly, the applicants are out to strict proof of the allegation that they were denied the information,” he argued.

Vico said there was restructuring in respect of Waverley Blankets Pvt LTD alone.

He said the restructuring occurred with the participation of Cohen’s daughters or representatives.

He also said the allegation that the applicant’ s signatures were forged is again clearly malicious.

The matter is pending.