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Russian billionaire succeeds in having wife’s MFPA Pt III claim dismissed

If claim allowed, there would be 'no limit to divorce tourism'

Vladmir Potanin has succeeded in an application to set aside an order giving his former wife leave to apply for financial relief pursuant to Part III Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

Natalia Potanina claimed that she had been received about $40 million following divorce proceedings in Russia where the couple had lived. Mr Potanin claimed that she had received $84 million.

The sum received by her was, the wife claimed, only a tiny fraction of her former husband's true wealth because nearly all his assets comprised shares in companies or other business entities which were not registered in his name but were held in trusts or corporate vehicles.

In Potanin v Potanina [2019] EWHC 2956 (Fam), Mr Justice Cohen concluded that this was "a classic example of a spouse whose background and married life was firmly fixed in her home country and who had no connection with England, whether by presence of the parties or their assets or business activities" Instead, the judge determined, she sought after the breakdown of the marriage to take advantage of what is a more generous approach to her claims than she had been able to achieve in her home country after the fullest possible use of its legal system.  If the claim was allowed to proceed there would be "effectively no limit to divorce tourism".

Cohen J said:

"It seems clear to me that in every instance the Russian courts have consistently and properly applied Russian law."

Therefore, Cohen J was satisfied that there was no solid basis for making an award and he dismissed the application for leave to bring a claim under Part III of the 1984 Act.

At the request of Mrs Potanina's counsel, the judge pointed out his client wished to seek permission to appeal the judgment. Consequently, it "should ... be read as not necessarily being the last word".

For the judgment, click here.