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In M v M and Others (2013) the wife applied for financial provision following divorce in Russia from total assets of £107m, all of which were acquired during the 17-year marriage. £91.6m was held in 11 commercial properties used by the husband to trade from. The remainder was held in eight properties in England which he claimed were held legally and beneficially by three companies and, therefore, the wife was not entitled to seek a transfer in satisfaction of her claim. The wife claimed that the husband had retained the beneficial interest of four of those properties, including his London home, and she sought an order transferring to her all of the properties in this jurisdiction (England and Wales) plus a lump sum order which she could attempt to enforce in other jurisdictions.
During the proceedings, the husband had failed to engage in proceedings and was in contempt on numerous counts, including in failing to pay interim maintenance. He had however been moving company structures from one offshore haven to another.
The evidence pointed towards the husband retaining beneficial ownership of the eight properties in England. He had provided all of the purchase monies and files in relation to the properties were opened in his name. When it suited him, he placed property in his son's name. This had not been a tax mitigation scheme.
In light of the husband's failure to attend court or give evidence, and repeated contempt, the court was capable of drawing adverse inferences against him. The court concluded that the probability was that the husband and his companies had attempted to defeat the wife's claims. The judge was satisfied that the husband had, at all times, retained the beneficial interest of the properties.
The starting point for the wife's claim was that the assets were acquired during the marriage and, therefore, should be shared equally. The wife was awarded all of the properties in England, including the husband's share of the balance of sale proceeds from the matrimonial home. In addition, notwithstanding the potential difficulties of enforcement, the wife was awarded a lump sum of £38m. In total she received £53m representing a half share of the ascertainable assets. Child maintenance for the two children of the marriage was awarded at £20,000 pa.
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