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Wife awarded £453 million in financial remedy proceedings

Award represents 41.5% of matrimonial assets

The East European former wife of an oil and gas trader, born in the Caucasus, has been awarded £453 million in financial remedy proceedings against her former husband. It is thought to be one of the largest divorce awards in the UK.

The couple in the case – AAZ v BBZ [2016] EWHC 3234 (Fam) –  have not been named. The wife was represented by Nigel Dyer QC of 1 Hare Court, Dakis Hagen of Serle Court and Henry Clayton of 4 Paper Buildings (instructed by Payne Hicks Beach). The husband was not represented, did not appear in person at any hearing but attended the final hearing by video-link from his yacht in the Caribbean.

The husband is 61 and the wife is 44. They married in Moscow in July 1993 when the wife was pregnant with the elder son. In that year they moved to London. In 1996 a second son was born. In 2012 the husband sold shares in a Russian company for US$1.375 billion.

There were also joined in the proceedings C Ltd, a Cypriot-registered company and the trustee of a Bermudian Discretionary Trust of which the husband was the sole director, and P Ltd, a Panamanian company which H contended was within the Trust. P Ltd was said to hold the bulk of the wealth in this case.

The wife has been a 'hands on' mother and housewife throughout the marriage.

The wife contended that the total net marital wealth in the case was £1.092 billion, that the entire wealth was matrimonial in character and should be subject to the sharing principle. The non-appearance of the husband and the 2nd and 3rd respondents at the trial meant that the court did not have the benefit of hearing any evidence or submissions from them.

Haddon-Cave J accepted the wife's estimate of the total wealth in the case, was entirely matrimonial in character and should be subject to the sharing principle.  He saw no reason in principle why there should not be an equal 50:50 division of the total marital assets.

The wife had originally made an open offer under FPR 2010 of a payment of a lump sum of £350 million. This represented 33% of the marital assets. In breach of the rules, the husband did not himself make an open offer. The wife's offer was made, said the judge, "no doubt, in the hope of avoiding a painful trial (in which, moreover, H was seeking to serve a statement from one of the children). W is not bound by her open offer. An unaccepted offer is a thing writ in water and can be revoked."

In addition to a lump sum payment of £350 million (and the assets the wife currently holds of £10,165,162), she also sought a further £93,060,990 comprising the following:

(1) The chattels valued at £2,479,125;

(2) An Aston Martin valued at £350,000 (the sale proceeds of which were intended to provide a fighting fund to assist in enforcement proceedings abroad);

(3) A modern art collection held by P Ltd which has recently been valued (on a sale basis) at US$112m.

Haddon-Cave J found the total value of W's claim to be £453,576,152, comprising 41.5% of the total marital assets, and considered an award of that sum to be justified in all the circumstances.

The judgment is here.