Keeping it all in the family

2013-12-02 00:00

JAY Singh has had six children with his own former step-daughter — and got a kidney from his son.

The Witness has now established how the tender tycoon behind the fatal Tongaat Mall collapse has used members of his family as shields and proxies for his needs.

But it also uncovered a remarkable loyalty and devotion to Singh among the clan, including the voluntary donation of an organ by the same man, Ravi Jagadasan, who now runs the company behind the Tongaat mall on behalf of his dad.

The family revelations coincide with a public charm offensive being launched by Singh (49), this weekend, including a new YouTube channel, “Meet Jay Singh”, a dedicated Facebook page, a website, and plans for a Jay Singh “foundation” in support of poor kidney disease patients.

This week, a member of Singh’s inner circle, Pastor Mervyn Reddy, confirmed that Ravi Jagadasan is the son of Pushpa Annamalay Govender, born in 1982.

A relative of Singh’s, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said Annamalay Govender (67) was also the mother of Shireen Annamalay (41) — and claimed that Singh was previously in a common law marriage to her mother, Govender, in which he helped raise Shireen. Govender was 18 years older than Singh.

The source alleged: “Jay became Shireen’s stepdad. Pushpa was furious about the relationship [between Singh and Shireen] at first, but eventually allowed it to happen.”

Mervyn Govender, a leading figure in the Phoenix Residents’ Association, claimed that he had established independently that Singh was previously married to Shireen’s mother, and alleged that Singh “used” family members as “fronts”.

In response, Jay Singh would not confirm the relationship with Govender and denied raising Shireen. He insisted: “My bond for Shireen developed in the nineties when she was an adult. She was reared by her mother. I have six children with Shireen.”

Meanwhile, a source with direct knowledge of the kidney procedure, who asked not to be named, said Singh suffered kidney failure in 2011, and received Ravi’s organ in an operation at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban.

In response, Singh told Weekend Witness: “Ravi’s deed displays the love for his dad and for which I will remain ever grateful.” He said he planned to launch a foundation for kidney patients early next year.

Reddy said: “Ravi and Jay’s love supersedes everything, even business. He did not want his dad to suffer. Ravi is not a smoker or drinker and is young and fit. He was able to recover quickly.”

Because he was legally barred from being a director of any business due to a criminal conviction for corruption in 1996, Singh registered his most controversial companies in the names of Shireen and Ravi — who are, in fact, half brother and half sister — placing both directly in the line of fire for Singh’s illegal building practices.

This week, a spokesperson for the National Homebuilders Registration Council said they would consider “criminal charges” against the “directors” of Woodglaze Trading and Gralio, both officially headed by Shireen. And the SAPS is investigating two cases of culpable homicide over the mall collapse — developed by Singh’s Rectangle Investments, which is officially headed by Ravi.

Reddy said: “It is premature to make a decision on who will, from the family, take responsibility for the companies involved in the tragedy. But the entire family will be exonerated.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times alleged last week that, in 2006, Singh “stole” the identify of his brother Ronnie Jagadasan in the days following his death in 2006, in order to avoid prosecution for an R80 million fraud charge from iThala Development Bank. Singh allegedly “assumed his death brother’s identity” and succeeded in quashing the fraud charge against himself by providing the prosecutor with the death certificate.

The family source alleged to Weekend Witness that Singh then hijacked his mother’s surname, Singh, due to its “greater prestige” within the Indian community, while also throwing investigators off the trail.

Ýesterday, Singh said: “My brother Ronnie died in an accident. I have never assumed his identity. The accusation was in relation to the Dolphin Whispers Company — I was not a shareholder or director. To the best of my knowledge and after my inquiry, there was no criminal investigation or any prosecutor involved.”

He added: “My family has always been known as Singh and I legally corrected my surname.”

Singh, nicknamed “Dido” by family members, also employs his cousin Pranesh Singh as his de facto head of security — a company called KS Bodyguarding whose offices are based at Starwood Mall.

Built by one of Singh’s companies — and slated by eThekwini officials in court as a fire hazard in 2009 — the mall is under Shireen’s name, and Pranesh lists her company, Gralio, as his place of work.

Despite a string of investigations into his companies this week, a criminal investigation into the mall collapse, and a move to blacklist them at eThekwini, a defiant Singh said: “ I am hurt the media has sensationalised the unfortunate incident with unjustified and incorrect accusations.”


Reportedly born near Westville, Jay Singh lost his father as a child, and was raised by his mother in a modest home in Phoenix – a woman described as “a kind, humble person” by neighbours. She died at the time Singh began his empire, by seizing control of the city’s bus company, Durban Transport – despite been legally barred from running any company, due to his 1996 criminal conviction for corruption.

The family source said Singh was one of seven children, and now has two sisters and two surviving brothers. The Singh family now owns seven luxury apartments around Durban – including a mansion in Phoenix and a multi-million rand apartment at The Pearls tower in Umhlanga – as well as a fleet of sports cars, including a black Lambourghini, a Ferrari, a Hummer and a Porsche.

67-year-old Annamalay Govender is still the listed owner of Singh’s family mansion in Phoenix.

While Singh admits to being an ANC supporter and donor, The Witness found he is not registered as a voter, according to the Independent Electoral Commission.

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