July 27, 2014

Cuban woman fights for Bahamas inheritance

Her husband left her a canal-side house and more but she claims she has received only a small part of the estate.

Kenia Batista Mir says she had a happy life with her German husband, who took the Cuban woman to live with him in the Bahamas. “Out of Cuba, but not too far,” she said. Then he died, leaving her an estate estimated at roughly $10 million.

But 3 ½ years after the death of Franz Kohlrautz, Batista claims she has received only about $70,000 in cash. Her lawyer is trying to figure out where the rest of money is, and why the couple’s house, in a neighborhood of $2 million-$3 million homes, sold for $200,000.

Legal documents show that the executor of Kohlrautz’s will also was the president of the company that bought the house: the Bahamas’ Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, at the time an attorney in private practice.

“Mr. Davis’ position is that he has done nothing wrong,” said Philip McKenzie, an attorney with Davis’ law firm in Nassau, Davis & Co.

Batista’s case has generated a thick file of legal documents and letters between three lawyers as well as complaints to the Bahamas Bar Association and even to the Queen of England, who is the official head of state of the former British colony.

“But complaining about this is like complaining to a Cuban policeman about Raúl Castro,” said William Nelson, 56, a Bahamas high school teacher who is helping Batista because she is from the same Cuban town (Las Tunas) as his wife.

Batista said she met Kohlrautz in 2005 when she was 25 and a waitress at El Chevere, a Havana club known for its salsa classes. He was 75 and taking lessons. Born in Germany, he made a fortune in mining and lived in Freeport, Bahamas.

She went to live with him in 2006 and they settled into his five-bedroom, six-bathroom home with a tennis court in the expensive Lucaya section. They had two Mercedes-Benz cars and a boat docked in the canal out back. They married in 2009.

“We got along very well. I was very happy,” Batista told el Nuevo Herald by phone from Las Tunas. Nelson said Kohlrautz was “possessive, not a lot of fun,” and that the marriage was “a bit rocky.” Batista said that’s not true.

Whatever their relationship, on May 26, 2010, Kohlrautz signed a will naming Davis, his long-time attorney, as its executor. He bequeathed Davis $500,000 plus several plots of land that he said Davis had helped him to recover in a lengthy legal battle.

The will specifically bequeathed to Batista the Freeport home and its contents, a bank account, and two safety-deposit boxes in the Bahamas. But it added that he left “all the rest, residue and remainder of my real and personal estate of whatever kind and wheresoever situated to my wife Kenya Batista.”

Batista said Kohlrautz had an apartment in Germany full of antiques and paintings, bank accounts in Hamburg and Frankfurt, and a Swiss life-insurance policy. He also was active in the stock market and had financial interests in South Africa and Panama. Nelson has estimated the overall estate at roughly $10 million.

Kohlrautz died of a heart attack less than six months after signing the will, on Nov. 17, 2010. Batista said she was in Cuba — on one of her trips home to maintain the validity of her Bahamas visitor’s visa and her claim over her Cuban residence — and returned quickly.

Batista said she hired Freeport attorney Carlson Shurland to represent her because she did not like Davis. Shurland was present on March 17, 2011, when she signed two documents that she claims translator Adriana Alain described to her as accepting a $30,000 cash advance from the estate. Batista speaks little English.

One document, however, recorded Batista’s sale of the house to Chrida Holdings for $200,000. Davis is identified in the document as president of Chrida. Batista’s current lawyer, Tiffany Dennison, said she has seen no evidence that Davis tried to sell the house to anyone else before it was sold to Chrida.

In the other document, Batista sells “the entirety of her interests in the estate” to Davis for $200,000. El Nuevo Herald obtained copies of both documents.

Shurland did not return el Nuevo Herald messages and emails requesting an interview. Davis’ government office said he is not allowed to comment on issues related to his law practice and referred el Nuevo Herald to McKenzie. He said that if Batista has a complaint, she can take it up with the Bar Association and other authorities.

Batista said that Shurland introduced her to Alain, who translatated at the March 17, 2011, signing. Shurland has claimed that Alain was Batista’s friend. Alain told el Nuevo Herald that she would comment only in the presence of Shurland and Batista.

The widow also claimed Davis told her the cash “advance” she received on that day was necessary because the will was being contested by Kohlrautz’s son from a previous marriage, Alexander. Dennison said she has seen no evidence of such a challenge. Alexander could not be located and his mother declined to comment.

Batista said she returned to Cuba on April 8, 2011, while Shurland worked to get her a new Bahamas visa. Her new visa arrived more than a year later and she flew back to Freeport in June 2012.

“I go to my house, and there’s some stranger there,” she said. She went to the home of Nelson and his wife, Mariela Solorzano Aguilera, and after some research they figured out that the house had been sold to Davis.

Batista estimated that she has so far received about $60,000 to $70,000 and acknowledges that Shurland has taken care of other expenses on her behalf, such as airplane tickets and some shopping outings.

Dennison said she had asked Shurland and McKenzie for detailed accounts of the inheritance, but has not received them.

Nelson sent letters on behalf of Batista to the Bahamas Bar Association and Queen Elizabeth II because she is the head of state of the Bahamas.

The Bar Association confirmed to Nelson that it had received his complaint, dated June 5, 2012, but did not reply to an el Nuevo Herald email requesting information on the standing of the case.

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