A woman who won £453 million in a divorce battle in London against her Russian billionaire ex-husband has been granted further High Court orders aimed at helping her recover the award.
Tatiana Akhmedova was given a 41.5% share of businessman Farkhad Akhmedov’s £1 billion-plus fortune in a ruling by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave in December 2016.
But on Thursday, the judge said it was apparent that Mr Akhmedov “has taken numerous elaborate steps to conceal his wealth and evade enforcement of the judgment”.
Announcing his latest decisions in the case in London, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said that since December 2016 Ms Akhmedova “has been involved in litigation to enforce the judgment in various jurisdictions around the world”.
The judge said that following a hearing in London in March, when he heard applications on her behalf for “further relief”, he made a number of orders to aid her enforcement of his 2016 judgment in those two jurisdictions.
One of the orders announced on Thursday relates to the businessman’s yacht, which has a capital value of £346,600,841, and an insurance value of 487,278,000 US dollars.
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave declared that MV Luna is “beneficially owned” by Mr Akhmedov, and ordered that it should be transferred into her name.
The judge said Ms Akhmedova’s lawyers, Withers, discovered that the yacht had been put into dry dock for maintenance in Dubai.
This may have been because Mr Akhmedov “assumed that Dubai was well beyond the reach of an English court judgment”, he said, adding: “It appears that Messrs Withers, however, knew better.”
The yacht was “effectively impounded in Port Rashid where she remains under court order”.
Making orders in Russian Ms Akhmedova’s favour, the judge said he was satisfied that “robust and immediate relief is required in this case”.
He described the businessman’s “continuing campaign” to defeat Ms Akhmedova “by concealing his assets in a web of offshore companies”.
The “histology” of Mr Akhmedov’s dealings with the yacht “are redolent of his elaborate and contumacious campaign to evade and frustrate the enforcement of the judgment debt against him”.
The judge added: “New facts have recently come to light and been drawn to this court’s attention which reinforce that picture.”
In a statement issue after the ruling, Ms Akhmedova’s legal team said: “Mr Akhmedov has employed a series of evasive and underhand tactics aimed at frustrating attempts to enforce the judgment made by the English court against him.
“We are very pleased that the High Court has recognised this today and that Mr Justice Haddon-Cave has taken the uncommon step of ‘piercing the corporate veil’ in recognising that the companies owning Mr Akhmedov’s assets are simply his tools.
“It is our hope that today’s judgment, assigning beneficial ownership of ‘Luna’ to Ms Akhmedova, with the cooperation of the DIFC courts (Dubai International Financial Centre) – where proceedings are ongoing – will help to bring about a resolution of this long-running dispute.”
A spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said in a statement after the ruling that the case should never have been brought before an English court.
He added: “Like the previous matrimonial award, it lacks any legal validity.
“It will have no bearing on the appeal hearing which the DIFC has properly granted to the family trust which owns the Luna.
‘This will be heard next month. Any idea that the yacht can be sold or handed over to Mrs Akhmedova is fanciful.
‘For that to happen – by the time all legal procedures were exhausted – would take years.
‘By then the yacht could have depreciated to such an extent that, even if Tatiana was ultimately victorious, it would be a completely hollow victory since the vessel could by then only be sold for scrap.”