Ocean’s 492 Million: Divorce Fraud

A London court ordered the seizure of a $492 million yacht in Dubai, to enforce one of the largest divorce property divisions in history. The reason for the large payout? The family law judge found that the husband tried to hide his assets.

© A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

The British court ruled that Farkhad Akhmedov should transfer ownership of the 380-foot boat MV Luna, currently impounded in a dry dock in Dubai, to his wife, Tatiana Akhmedova. The judge granted the order to uphold his earlier $646 million judgment.

Judge Charles Haddon-Cave said that Akhmedov tried to hide his ownership of the Luna behind a group of companies and moved the ship to Dubai on the belief that it was “well beyond the reach of an English court judgment.”

Fraud and Unequal Distribution

I’ve written about property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Akhmedov divorce, the court has the authority.

However, the court must base an unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

It has been a long-standing rule in Florida that an unequal distribution of marital assets may be justified to compensate for one spouse’s “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after filing of the petition….” For example, hiding your $492m yacht in the Middle East.

High Seas Adventure

In the final days of the divorce, the billionaire changed his ownership of the yacht to another of his companies. The transactions form part of the billionaire’s “continuing campaign to defeat Akhmedova by concealing his assets in a web of offshore companies.

The Luna, which boasts a 20-meter outdoor swimming pool and eight smaller boats, also has a mini-submarine.

Akhmedov said he had supported his wife after their marriage was dissolved in Russia. He blamed cynical lawyers for later filing for divorce in London, and U.K. politics for the court’s decision.

The couple met in 1989, marrying four years later and moved to London where the wife has lived with the children ever since. The marriage ended in late 2014.

Akhmedov, who refused to take part in the U.K. trial and moved back to Russia, has allegedly moved his substantial modern art collection, valued at 90.5 million pounds, to Lichtenstein, his wife said in the court documents in January.

The judge said that they needed to move quickly to enforce the order over the boat. Akhmedov “has over the past 18 months repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to take rapid and multifarious steps to evade enforcement at every turn.”

The Bloomberg article is here.