Ashish Thakkar's Divorce Case Exposes "Africa's Youngest Billionaire" Mantle as Undeserved. He's Not That Rich.

Did Ashish Thakkar lie about his wealth on purpose or did others impose the mantle of “Africa’s Youngest Billionaire” on him against his will? Or is he lying about his wealth to escape having to pay his glamourous wife Meera a hefty sum in a divorce settlement? Because apparently he has been telling a UK judge that he is worth less than $600,000 – which comes as a shock to his wife who claims he has a complex network of assets in a whole bunch of offshore accounts – and that he is actually a NOT billionaire.

Thakkar’s wife Meera is a well educated, beautiful girl who grew up in UK. She is a blogger and food writer whose work has been published in the Daily Telegraph and Conde Nast Traveller. She claims that her husband has concealed his assets in the Virgin Islands. She also seems to be claiming that he could have assets in Panama:

In her skeleton argument, Manek claimed Thakkar was being dishonest and that documents showed a Panamanian foundation was formerly at the helm of the Mara Group structure, a structure of which he was the primary beneficiary. She was a secondary beneficiary, it was claimed.
The foundation was dissolved shortly after she issued divorce proceedings in summer 2014, according to her argument in court.

Ms. Manek also claims that her husband has purchased a pricey ticket to space in Richard Branson’s Intergalactic Space program for approximately £160,000 pounds. That would represent 25 percent of the total sum of his networth according to the figures he has admitted if this is true. But is it true? Not if you believe what Bloomberg said about his wealth, according to the Kampala Observer:

Thakkar’s net worth is valued at $425 million according to the Bloomberg billionaires’ index. His most valuable asset is Ison Business Process Outsourcing, a UAE-based company that operates in Africa and India.

Ms Manek has said that she would like Mr. Thakkar to cash in the space ticket and to include in the marital pot. Maybe she is justified to say that. But the bigger issue is, is Thakkar lying about his wealth? Is he really a billionaire? You be the judge.

A recent UK Telegraph report explains Thakkar’s background and origins. He is of Indian descent but he was born in UK in Leicester even though his family is from Uganda. For four generations, apparently, his family though Indian, had resided in East Africa, in Uganda until they were forced to leave under the Idi Amin regime. Then they fled to England, only to return to Africa, settling in Rwanda where they got crushed up financially during the 1994 genocide. Several years later, they relocated again to Uganda and it is there that Thakkar formed his “started to trade again through his computer firm called RAP.”

A Guardian report  provides an in-depth summary of Thakkar’s “remarkable story”:

The high court on Tuesday heard of the “remarkable” story of Thakkar, whose family fled the Rwanda genocide in 1994 and resettled in Uganda.
His family were evacuated to Hôtel des Mille Collines, which is featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.

His parents had lost everything in the 1970s when they became Asian refugees of Idi Amin’s Uganda, and started again in Leicester where Thakkar was born.

When they were financially secure they sold up and moved to Rwanda, a year before the genocide took place.

It is this refugee past that Thakkar says drove him to drop out of school and become an entrepreneur selling computer parts. Twenty years after starting his business in a shopping mall in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, his company now employs more than 11,000 people across 25 countries.

Legal bills for their divorce are prognosticated in the region of £1,000,000 pounds – which is a high price when you consider what Mr. Thakkar claims he is worth. He has denied concealing his wealth and he has also claimed that shares in some of the business concerns his wife claims he owns actually belong to his mother and sister. To wit: Mara Ltd – an IT, Tech and Property Empire which he formed with his business partner Bob Diamond, a former Barclays exec. But according to Bloomberg, this asset has lost 80 percent of its value in just three years.

Thakkar now lives and works in Dubai even though he and Meera Manek were married in Kampala, Uganda. In November, the Kampala Observer noted the following about Thakkar’s holdings:

Some of his properties in Uganda include Riley package and Kensington properties among others. Recently, Thakkar’s Atlas Mara was rumoured to be one of the institutions that wanted to either acquire or merge with the financially-distressed Crane bank. Atlas Mara already has stakes in banks in Rwanda and Zambia. In May, during the annual meeting for the African Development Bank, Ashish announced that Atlas was partnering with General Electric, one of the largest firms in the world, to invest in energy projects in Africa.