News

COMPLEX DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS - Akhmed v Akhmedova

22/07/2021

[Another fascinating story from Oliver Bullough oliver.bullough@codastory.com]

THE Akhmed v Akhmedova was a battle to make even its jaded lawyers sit up and take notice. Both the size of the reward given to Tatiana Akhmedova in 2016 after her marriage collapsed –

and the steps that Farkhad Akhmed took to stop her getting it, were unprecedented

But now – after a multi-jurisdictional odyssey, involving more tax havens and micro-states than most people can name --  it appears to be over.

“Tatiana has ended up with not a penny more than she was offered by her ex-husband six years ago,” said a spokesman for Farkhad.

He is paying her around $200 million to settle the claim, on top of nearly $100 million she won from her eldest son earlier in the year, but she’ll be giving a large chunk of that away.

Her fees were being paid upfront by Burford Capital, a litigation funder, on a contingency basis.

It’s taken $103 million of her haul as a return on its investment, which works out as a handy $70 million profit.

Akhmedov’s fortune was born in the early 1990s trading furs and expanded after he moved into the lucrative Russian gas business.

She lived in London with their children, which is why an English court had jurisdiction over the marital assets.

Those assets’ division between the ex-spouses has been, by any standards, a sordid and depressing affair.

“All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. With apologies to Tolstoy, the Akhmedov family is one of the unhappiest ever to have appeared in my courtroom,” said the judge in her ruling against Temur Akhmedov – the couple’s oldest son.

Farkhad moved many of his assets into Temur’s name in what a judge said was an attempt to prevent Tatiana being able to access them, which is why she ended up targeting their son as well. It was a tactic that earned Temur some sympathy to begin with, although much of that sympathy dissipated when messages he had written about his father’s elaborate financial arrangements were revealed in court.

“If the Tatiana problem did not exist, my Father would not move his asset anywhere…!! […] He wants to MOVE OUT OF SWITZERLAND … CUT HER BALLS OF[F] … GET DIVORCED … POST NUPTIAL AGREEMENT… And be a FREE MAN,” he wrote at one point.

“Temur was not a witness of truth. On the contrary, he showed himself to be an untruthful and unsatisfactory witness who lied in respect of various aspects of his evidence, who had a propensity to make up his evidence as he went along, who changed his evidence repeatedly when confronted with the contemporaneous documents, and who provided explanations that were simply beyond belief,” the judge concluded.

If anyone is interested in the measures that very wealthy people are able to employ to structure their assets, I highly recommend reading the judgment in full, just for the astonishing variety of techniques and jurisdictions involved

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2021/545.html

  1. Cypriot companies,
  2. Panamanian companies,
  3. Bermudan trusts (including a “dear me” trust https://www.curzongreen.co.uk/324-a-dear-me-trust-divorcees-with-interests-in-trust-assets-beware/),
  4. Liechtenstein establishments, Liechtenstein trusts,
  5. A French company,
  6. A Luxembourgish company,
  7. A Russian company,
  8. Emirati banks,
  9. Liechtenstein private banks,
  10. Swiss banks,
  11. British property,
  12. French property,
  13. Russian property,
  14. fine art and,
  15. last but not least, the $260 million superyacht Luna,
  16. which was owned at various times via companies in the Isle of Man and the Marshall Islands, and which Akhmedov was determined to hang onto at all costs.

“The histology of H’s dealings with M.V. “Luna” are redolent of his elaborate and contumacious campaign to evade and frustrate the enforcement of the Judgment debt against him,” said one of the many legal findings (you need a dictionary of legal English to understand it).

“We should take all out and send her naxyj. I will burn this moneys rather then will give her,” Akhmedov wrote at one point (you need a dictionary of Russian swearwords to understand it).

Akhmedova’s claim to the 377-foot yacht was rejected by a court in Dubai, but her lawyers challenged that in the Marshall Islands, where a court in turn kicked the decision back to Dubai in May.

That may have been what precipitated her decision to settle, since the prospect of a sharia law court siding with a woman in a divorce case was always going to be remote.

“Burford and she spent years and millions of pounds on a costly global tour of various jurisdictions in their attempts to seize Luna.

Every one of them failed and the yacht remains and will remain in the ownership of Farkhad and the family trusts,” said Akhmedov’s spokesman.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Akhmedov won, in that his wife ended up accepting a sum of money far lower than the total originally awarded by the English court in 2016, which goes to show the power of offshore structures in frustrating legal processes.

However, considering the process has spectacularly poisoned relations between his children and their mother, the cost of that victory is extremely high. The real victors are, as ever, the lawyers.

END

General