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Husband ordered to pay wife’s £456K costs following his non-disclosure

£17m award to property magnate’s wife who signed pre-nuptial agreement

The judgment in Thiry v Thiry [2014] EWHC 4046 (Fam) by Sir Peter Singer has demonstrated the costly implications of failing to adhere to the court's strict disclosure rules. Didier Thiry, a property magnate, was ordered to pay to his ex-wife, Alisa not only around £17 million, but also all of her costs, amounting to £456,000, as well as a £500,000 "fighting chest" to assist Mrs Thiry in the event of any future litigation from her ex-husband.

On the face of it, this case should have been straight forward. The parties entered in to a pre-nuptial agreement prior to their marriage in 2006.  Exhibited to the agreement were schedules of the assets which each held and agreed would remain theirs during the marriage and beyond.  Neither party sought to depart from the agreement and indeed each ratified it during the course of the divorce proceedings. In addition, the general rule in financial remedy proceedings as a result of divorce is that each party pays their own costs.

However, the husband and wife entered into some very complex financial arrangements during their marriage – details of which Mr Thiry failed to disclose during the divorce proceedings. The judge found Mr Thiry's conduct to be so poor that he told him to pay all his ex-wife's £456,000 costs on the basis that "the self-inflicted extent that the husband's conduct of the litigation has inflated the wife's costs bill and thus my costs award against him".

Since proceedings were issued in May 2013, Mr Thiry has been the subject of two penal notices and after his continued failure to comply with court directions, he was committed to prison for four months – although this committal was never enforced as Mr Thiry has not returned to the UK since the order was made against him.

Although this was Mrs Thiry's second marriage and she received £34 million from her first husband on divorce, the judge referred to Mrs Thiry's awards as being restorative justice as she entered the marriage with significantly greater assets than Mr Thiry. The judge used damning language to describe Mr Thiry's financial conduct referring to him as "an unprincipled rogue who has acted in a financially predatory fashion to prey on his wife for his own profit and to her substantial detriment".

The courts have wide powers to ensure that there is full financial disclosure during all divorce cases, and a husband or wife attempting to conceal assets can be penalised by being ordered to pay the other side's legal costs like Mr Thiry, or by being given a less favourable settlement.

Mr Thiry may have learned a costly lesson, and his experience should serve as a deterrent to those parties who feel that the disclosure rules do not apply to them or seek to use the threat of further litigation as a means to exert undue influence over their ex partners.

Lewis Marks QC of Queen Elizabeth Building and Harry Oliver of 1 King's Bench Walk (instructed by Forsters LLP) represented Mrs Thiry. Mr Thiry was not represented.

The judgment is here.

Rayner Grice, Partner and Head of Birmingham Family Law Team, Clarke Willmott