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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

UK judge grants £350m yacht seized in Dubai to ex-wife of Putin-linked oligarch

The High Court ruled “Luna” should be transferred as part of a £453million divorce settlement

Luxury "Luna" yacht is seen anchored at Bodrum in Mugla Province of Turkey. Ali Balli / Anadolu Agency / Getty 
Luxury "Luna" yacht is seen anchored at Bodrum in Mugla Province of Turkey. Ali Balli / Anadolu Agency / Getty 

A judge in the UK has ruled that a £350m superyacht, which is currently impounded in Dubai, should be transferred to the ex-wife of a Putin-linked oligarch as part of a settlement deal in Britain’s most expensive divorce case.

The High Court in London ordered the 377ft “Luna” yacht, which was bought by billionaire Russian Farkhad Akhmedov from Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich in 2014, should be given to Tatyana Akhmedova in an attempt to recover a £453m settlement awarded in 2016.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said in a written judgement on Thursday that Mr Akhmedov had tried to “evade enforcement” of the yacht by moving it to a dry dock in Dubai in October 2017 believing it was “well beyond the reach of an English Court judgement”.

The judge said the 61-year-old oil and gas tycoon had conducted an "elaborate and contumacious campaign to evade and frustrate the enforcement of the judgement debt against him".

“Luna” is the 23rd largest luxury yacht in the world and boasts two helipads, a 20-metre outdoor swimming pool, a mini-submarine and 10 VIP guest cabins. It was impounded in Port Rashid in February by agents acting on behalf of the UK High Court.

Last week, Mr Akhmedov won the right to appeal the seizure through the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts, in a hearing which could take place next month.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said the securing the hearing was another attempt to avoid paying out 41 per cent of his fortune as agreed in December 2016 settlement.

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Lawyers acting on behalf of Ms Akhmedova said in a statement they hoped the High Court ruling would bring a resolution to the long-running dispute.

“Akhmedov has employed a series of evasive and underhand tactics aimed at frustrating attempts to enforce the judgement made by the English Court against him,” the statement read.

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 Akhmedov’s assets are simply his tools.”

However, a spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said the English court’s judgement lacked “legal validity” and that the appeal would be heard in a Dubai court next month.

"It will have no bearing on the appeal hearing which the DIFC [Dubai International Finance Centre] has properly granted to the family trust which owns the Luna,” the spokesman said.

"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."

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