It is not incomprehensible that wealthy business shareholders feed their high-net-worth assets through their companies, with the consequence of making the assets available to their spouse limited and out of reach. It therefore comes as no real surprise that the English family courts have shown that they are prepared to tackle the issues related with parties hiding international assets within divorce proceedings, whilst trying to remedy the same.
This article takes a look at the recent judgment made in Akhmedova v Akhmedov  EWFC 23 (Fam) where the wife sought to enforce financial provision orders in the region of a £453m lump sum, after the Russian billionaire husband had taken elaborate steps to conceal his wealth and evade enforcement of the judgment.
BackgroundIn 2016, Mrs Akhmedova was awarded a £453m lump sum comprising of a £350m cash sum together with the transfer of various properties, as part of the financial remedy settlement. However, in January 2018, it was reported in the press that Mrs Akhmedova was ‘yet to receive a penny’ from her former husband.
Mr Akhmedov held two corporate entities that were being used to shield his true wealth from the English courts. In the Isle of Man, Mrs Akhmedova obtained orders in respect of Mr Akhmedov’s helicopter and private jet and in Dubai she obtained orders in respect of his yacht (‘Luna’), held by a Liechtenstein corporate entity named ‘Straight’, worth €260m.
It was found that Mr Akhmedov never intended to part with his beneficial ownership of the assets, or the cash, as the transfer of €260m made to ‘Avenger’, another of his corporate entities held in Panama, was merely part of a 'faux sale of the M.V. Luna', by Tiffany (a company held in the Isle of Man). At the time of this transfer, Mr Akhmedov was the owner of Avenger and the beneficial owner of Tiffany, and so there was no real validity in this transaction.
In a rare move, the Family Court ‘pierced the corporate veil’ following Mr Akhmedov’s attempts at concealing his wealth through complex offshore asset structures.