The hearing was opened here to-day of the action in which members of the family of the late Silas Aaron Hardoon, the Jewish multi-millionaire, who died in Shanghai a year ago, are claiming the estate, contesting the right of the widow to whom it was bequeathed in the will as sole heiress, sole executrix and sole administrator of the estate to inherit, because she is a Buddhist, who has never become a Jewess, so that her marriage to a Jew was not legal.
Leading members of the Shanghai Jewish Community have given evidence that the widow, Mrs. Eliza Hardoon never was Jewish and had always observed the Buddhist faith.
The Baghdad Beth Din has sent in a testimony declaring that the marriage was illegal and is not recognised as valid.
The Government of Iraq is also supporting the claim of the family, demanding that as Hardoon was an Iraq subject who had never renounced his citizenship the case should be heard according to Iraq law.
It is expected that the trial will continue for about a week.
Mr. Silas Aaron Hardoon, who died in July 1931 at the age of 84, is stated to have left the greatest hoard of gold ever gathered by any one person in the Far East.
A native of Baghdad, he came of a notable family long known for its staunch service to Judaism. Educated at Bombay, he came to Hong-Kong in 1873, in the employ of Messrs. David Sassoon, whom he left after some years to join Messrs. E. D. Sassoon.
Mr. Hardoon had lived in Shanghai for 63 years. In 1925 he received special privileges from the Foreign Office in London, accepting him as a British subject.
Through a society of which he was the only member he contributed sums running into millions for charitable, relief and educational purposes in Chinca. Large numbers of Chinese owe their education to his assistance.
Although married to a Chinese woman who retained her Buddhist faith, Mr. Hardoon continued to be a prominent member of the Jewish Community of Shanghai, and he died and was buried as a Jew.
Relations living in Shanghai, Baghdad, Basra, Bombay, Jerusalem and other places have filed claims to the estate, and they declare that if they do not win in the present action they will carry their case as far as the Privy Council in London.
The relatives demand that as Mr. Hardoon was an Iraq subject, the case must be tried according to Iraq law.
It has been definitely ascertained, it has been stated in Shanghai, that Mr. Hardoon was a British protege of Iraq nationality, registered in the Shanghai British Consulate, and that he had never renounced his Iraq nationality.
The estate is estimated at about thirty million pounds.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.