French charities inherit Princess Soraya's $7.5million fortune

COLOGNE, Germany - A German court ruled Wednesday that 4.5 million euros (US$6.1 million or S$7.5 million) be paid from the estate of the late Princess Soraya of Iran (right in photo) to three French charities.

The French Red Cross, an animal protection group and an organisation for the rights of disabled people must equally share the money, which is part of the fortune of Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiary, who died in Paris in 2001, the court in Cologne ruled.

During the 1950s Soraya was married to the former shah of Persia, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

In a will dated 1991, she ordered her jewellery and the contents of her Paris flat be auctioned and the proceeds shared equally among the three charities should her brother, Bijan, (seen with her in the photo above) who lived in Cologne, die without any heirs.

The court said it could not be ascertained whether the brother - who never married and died just a week after Soraya - had any illegitimate children.

And as Soraya adopted German citizenship in 2000 and was a German national at the time of her death, her inheritance should be treated according to German law, which shows illegitimate children no preferential treatment over the charities, the court said.