Heir of Indian nobleman being sought to claim compensation of $1 billion

Published: April 23, 2013
British Raj

Colin Murray’s photograph ‘Palace in the Lake, Oodeypore’ was taken in India during the British Raj. Since that era, rival families the Arakkals and the Keyis have had many feuds – the latest of which may be who can produce an heir first to claim a $1 billion compensation package from Saudi Arabia. Submitted photo/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/The New York Times


A search is under way for the direct descendant of a 19th century Indian shipping magnate who is owed $1 billion in compensation from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government has agreed to pay the sum to the direct heir of Mayankutty Keyi, in recompense for the destruction of the family’s elaborate house in Mecca in 1971.

The search has reignited a feud between the Muslim royals of Malabar, on India’s western coast, and one of their most powerful rival families.

The Arakkals, erstwhile rulers of the Malabar Coast, and the Keyis, who created a shipping empire that stretched from India to Arabia during the British Raj, have a history of bitter feuds. Although the $1 billion cash grab threatens to overshadow them.

Mayankutty Keyi commissioned the Mecca building in 1848 as a guesthouse for friends and family members performing the Haj pilgrimage. Saudi officials have said they will pay the compensation to the rightful heir and the Indian government has appointed an official to find the direct descendant.

But both the Arakkal royals and the Keyi family have indicated they will mount campaigns to be recognised as the rightful beneficiaries.

According to the Times of India, members of the Arakkal family say Mayankutty Keyi had married one of their female ancestors, and that their matrilineal culture makes them the true heirs.

But T O Sooraj, who has been appointed by the Kerala government to oversee the search, said so far neither family had identified a genuine direct descendant entitled to claim the money.

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