Dubai court hears Russian oligarch's battle to save luxury yacht
$500 million superyacht once owned by Chelsea FC owner Abramovich at centre of complex divorce case
A legal precedent could be set in a landmark divorce enforcement case heard in Dubai if lawyers can close a loophole allowing a Russian oligarch’s multimillion-dollar assets to be protected in a trust fund.
Russian oil and gas tycoon Farkhad Akhmedov officially divorced his wife in 2014, with Tatiana Akhmedov awarded 41.5 per cent of the marital assets by the UK High Court two years later.
The total figure was a reported US$641 million (Dh2.35 billion), one of the largest settlements in history.
According to Forbes magazine, Mr Akhmedov is worth about $1.35bn, thanks in part to the 2012 sale of his 44 per cent share of Bechtel Energy.
A split of the family wealth was awarded according to the court’s equity principle, where both parties have equal contribution to the marriage and their assets. They have two children.
Judges at the DIFC commercial courts will decide if a court order made in England to freeze assets, including a superyacht moored in Dubai and worth more than $500m, can be used to recover the agreed funds.
A day of complex legal argument presented by senior British lawyers unfolded in the DIFC on Wednesday.
“This court does not have jurisdiction over my client,” said Vernon Flynn, a lawyer experienced in international litigation battles.
“This is an unprecedented exercise and there is no proper basis for DIFC to apply the freezing order to this vessel.”
The case has since been plunged into uncertainty over the legal ownership of Luna, one of the biggest yachts in the world that once belonged Roman Abramovich, owner of English football club Chelsea.
Mr Akhmedov’s legal team claim the luxury vessel is secured in a family trust fund under the title Straight Establishment.
Lawyers acting for Mrs Akhmedov claimed her former husband was attempting to frustrate enforcement of the British court’s judgment, including by concealing assets around the world.
A second respondent in the case is a Liechtenstein-based establishment allegedly used to protect the 115-metre Luna, now docked in Port Rashid with more than 50 crew.
Mrs Akhmedov is hoping the DIFC Courts can enforce the High Court order that comes from the judgment against her former husband, and the second respondent, so enforcement action can be taken in Dubai.
“The vessel should not have been frozen until a final judgment had been made,” Mr Flynn said. “
To allow this kind of judgment would create havoc... a recipe for disaster for future cases around the world.”
Lawyers for both parties presented their cases to three judges during an appeal hearing, although a final judgment could take months.
“The freezing order applies to whoever is in possession of the vessel,” said Judith Prakash, one of three justices in court.
Mrs Akhmedov believes Luna is owned and controlled by her husband, allowing the UK judgement to be executed in Dubai.
Michael Black, representing Mrs Akhmedov, said her former husband and Straight Establishment were one and the same.
Updated: May 10, 2018 10:21 AM