Is this the latest installment of “Lies that Bind”? No, it is the secret love life of Vimal Shah, the chairman of Bidco Africa.
Vimal, usually a publicity-seeker, has taken extraordinary steps over the last 10 years to keep this story quiet. But over 250 pages of court documents reveal that he is entangled in his mistress’s longrunning divorce case, blamed by her husband for breaking up their marriage.
If “Lies that Bind” mirrors Vimal’s love life today, “Endless Love”, the 1981 American romantic drama film, must have been on the mind of the future Bidco boss when he met Aarti Vipul.
During their time at United States International University in Kenya, from 1982 to 1984, Vimal and Aarti “developed a relationship to the point of marrying”, the court documents say. But Vimal’s parents “did not approve”.
Vimal went on to marry Manda Shah, in a union arranged by their parents. But the bond between Aarti and Vimal was strong and they “maintained a relationship since 1984”, records say.
Over the next two decades, Vimal, along with his father, Bhimji Shah, and brother Tarun, turned Bidco into a major edible oils producer with a commanding share of the Kenyan market.
For Aarti, life was more difficult. The court papers allege that her husband, Vipul Haria, whom she married on July 29 1994, abused her mentally and physically.
Vipul “has constantly and frequently displayed a violent and uncaring attitude towards her and physically assaulted her several times”, a statement from Aarti’s lawyer reads. The alleged abuse even spilled out into public on a trip to India, where Aarti claims Vipul “abused and insulted her in the presence of their son, hotel staff and guests”.
On May 12 2005, Aarti left home, in a car with Vimal, and filed for divorce. Vipul challenged the filing, denying he had ever “raised a finger” against his wife, and the case dragged on for years. During this time, Vipul alleges, Vimal again became a force in Aarti’s life. In an application to the court on May 27 2010, Vipul sought to include Vimal and another man, Dipan Haria, as co-respondents.
Vipul accused Aarti of committing adultery “on occasions far too numerous to itemise” with Dipan, described as a “healer” who would arrive to look after Aarti’s back pain. “Both locked themselves in Aarti’s bedroom in the matrimonial home and committed adultery,” court document say. In an unrelated court case, Aarti admitted under oath to her relationship with Dipan.
It is not clear whether Vimal knew about Aarti’s relationship with Dipan before the court filing in 2010, but he was certainly competing for her affections at the time. The court papers say Vimal and Aarti “in romantic trips have travelled together overseas, including Dubai, United Kingdom, India and other places between 2007 to 2010, as shown in their respective passports”.
Vipul accuses the lovers of using the house of Vishnu Patel in Parklands, Nairobi, for their trysts, and exchanging “various phone calls and love messages through their telephone numbers,” one of which, 0733619444, Vimal Shah continues to use to this day, according to sources who have called Vimal recently.
The couple’s cover, the court papers say, was Aarti’s “pretext of employment at Bidco” and that she referred to Vimal as her “boss”.
At one point during the love saga, an unidentified individual “dropped a sealed envelope” at Vimal’s residence, according his lawyers. Addressed to Vimal’s wife, Mandra, the package included a “booklet write up” about Aarti, as well as “copies of mobile telephone bills”.
Mandra’s package prompted a swift response from Oraro and Company Advocates, Bidco’s corporate law firm, which accused Vipul of obtaining “confidential mobile telephone bills”.
“An appropriate report has been made to the Kenya police for investigation and action,” Oraro wrote.
In a response, Vipul’s lawyers denied their client was behind the incident.
With Vimal’s wife and family on notice, another anonymous letter appeared – this one striking at the heart of the Indian community in Kenya.
The letter, addressed to the chairman of the Visa Oshwal Community, and copied to Oshwal Centre committee members and teachers at the Shri Chandana Vidyapeeth School, calls Vimal “Aarti’s man of heaven” whom she allowed to “manipulate her emotions”. Vimal is “a hypocrite of first order ignorant of Jain values of women,” the letter says.
Vimal has previously been called out over his alleged violations of the Jain philosophy, which espouses an ethical and spiritual life. Media reports say that his pursuit of a Kenyan woman broke up her marriage, and the husband died of a broken heart.