Businessman who left Tories £8m 'was delusional'

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A wealthy businessman was suffering from delusions when he left the Conservative Party more than £8 million in his will, a High Court judge ruled today.







Branislav Kostic lacked "testamentary capacity" when he cancelled an earlier will in which he had left everything to his son, Zoran, his only child, Mr Justice Henderson said.



Ruling on Zoran's legal challenge to wills made in favour of the Conservative Party Association in 1988 and 1989, the judge upheld a 1974 will, made at a time when nobody disputed he had full capacity, under which Zoran was the sole beneficiary.









Belgrade-born Mr Kostic died aged 80 in October 2005.

Zoran, 50, said his father was suffering from a delusional and paranoid mental illness when he made his last wills.



But lawyers for the Conservatives argued that the old man's paranoid delusions did not poison his affections towards his son.



They told Mr Justice Henderson there were rational explanations of why he left Zoran out of his will: he had made earlier financial provision for his son, but had since become estranged from him and was disappointed by his career choices.



And then there was Mr Kostic's "great and long-standing affection for the Conservative Party and his admiration for Mrs Thatcher".



Branislav Kostic was imprisoned by the Soviet army during the Second World War in 1944. He was released to fight against the Nazis in 1945 and was badly injured.



He graduated from Zagreb University with a degree in chemistry in 1951 and five years later married his wife Mirjana. Their only child Zoran was born in July 1957.



After being sent to work in London, Mr Kostic established Transtrade UK, dealing in pharmaceutical products and precious metals.



Trading in London and Switzerland, it made his fortune.



He became a British national in 1975. His marriage was dissolved in 1986.





Mr Justice Henderson said the old man suffered from a serious and untreated mental illness from at least mid-1984 onwards.

The central feature of his delusions was the belief that there was an international conspiracy of dark forces against him in which his wife, mother and sister, together with many others, were implicated.



The judge held that Mr Kostic was unable to form a proper appreciation of Zoran's claims on his estate.



His natural affection for his son had been poisoned or distorted by his delusions to such an extent that he was "wholly unable to dispose of his property in the way he would have done if of sound mind".



His decisions to leave the whole of his estate to the Conservatives and to request them to establish a foundation in London in memory of his late father, Milan Kostic, to promote what he called the Christian Democratic values of love, truth and freedom "were themselves in part the product of his delusions", the judge said.













During the hearing of the action in July, the court heard that Mr Kostic had stated that Margaret Thatcher was "the greatest leader of the free world in history" and that she would save the world from the "satanic monsters and freaks" who were conspiring against him.

His delusions, over time, expanded to poison his relationship with his family, most of his friends, his professional advisers, his bankers, his business contacts and his colleagues in Transtrade.



Family attempts to maintain contact with him were rebuffed - he would not eat the chocolates they sent him at Christmas because he thought they were poisoned.



The Conservatives said Mr Kostic's letters demonstrated a love of language and an "appreciation of metaphor and hyperbole".



He was able to read and speak five languages and had a wide knowledge of history, mathematics, science, philosophy, literature and the arts.



Perhaps as a result of his early experience of Communism, he appreciated the values of a tolerant, free and democratic society - and he valued Christian Democratic and Conservative ideals.



While it was accepted that Mr Kostic suffered from a delusional disorder, it was not accepted that this rendered him incapable of making a proper will.

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