Royal family ends billion-dollar dispute
24 October 2013, 17:09
Ahmedabad - A decades-long dispute between members of one of India's former royal families over palaces, diamonds and other items worth billions of dollars has been settled, a family member said.
Members of the Gaekwad family on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding before a judge in the western city of Vadodara over property that includes a palace reportedly four times the size of Britain's Buckingham Palace.
"We took the decision for the betterment of our families and are satisfied with the outcome and hope we will overcome the past and forge a new relationship," Samarjitsinh Gaekwad told reporters after the signing.
The dispute erupted in 1991 between two sons of the last king of Baroda state, who ruled in what is now the western state of Gujarat during the British Raj and until independence in 1947.
The bitter battle, involving more than 20 members of their extended families, went on even after one of the sons died in May last year.
The dead man's son Samarjitsinh and Samarjitsinh's uncle Sangramsinh Gaekwad continued the dispute.
"Both Samarjitsinhji and Sangramsinhji have reached a settlement with regard to the royal property and have signed the settlement deal before the judge in Vadodara court," lawyer for Samarjitsinh, AV Avadhut, told reporters, using the Hindi phrase "ji" for respect.
Samarjitsinh and his family will retain the Laxmi Vilas Palace, built in 1890 and one of India's largest private dwellings, and its surrounding 243 hectares of land that reportedly includes a golf course.
He will also control the museum at the palace with its paintings and diamonds and other precious jewellery.
Sangramsinh and his family will take control of private companies, along with other real estate including the Indumati Mahal palace in Vadodara and a property in Mumbai, where he and his family are based.
Still more properties will be split between the four Gaekwad sisters, with local media estimating the total assets as worth the equivalent of $3bn.