LONDON (AP) -- Wealth, jealousy and extremes of sibling rivalry are all spicy ingredients in a courtroom battle over an Indian food products empire.

At the center of the case are two middle-aged sisters who claim their business mogul brother shut them out of a share in a multimillion-dollar food fortune because of their sex. He accuses them of "ill-motivated gold-digging."

That's just the tip of an iceberg of acrimony dividing the clan behind the Patak food brand.

"Inequality of work, wives, jealousies, general unhappiness, egos -- the kitchen sink," company boss Kirit Pathak said in court Wednesday. "It's a soap opera."

Yogesh Pathak, who is supporting his sisters, said Kirit Pathak "would make Machiavelli look like Mother Teresa."

Started in a tiny London kitchen 50 years ago by Laxmishanker Pathak, an immigrant from Kenya, Patak's Foods sells its products around the world and has a turnover of more than $90 million a year. The Pathak family dropped the 'h' from the corporate title.

Kirit Pathak and his wife, Meena, are among Britain's richest and best-known businesspeople of South Asian ancestry. Both have been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for services to industry; their pictures hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

But wealth did not bring the family closer together. Kirit's sisters, Anila Shastri, 52, and Chitralekha Mehta, 56, accuse him of cheating them of their shares in the family's lucrative brand.

In a lawsuit at London's High Court, the sisters say they are victims of an Indian tradition that decrees only sons will inherit family business interests.

They say they each handed over 1,250 shares, worth an eighth of the firm when issued in 1974, to their mother in 1989 on the understanding she would hold them for safekeeping.

Instead, they say, she gave them to Kirit, who proceeded to buy out his three brothers' shares and gain control of the company.

The sisters claim they are each owed the value of those 1,250 shares

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