Enforcing your property division award is world news when it arises in the divorce of Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov and Tatiana Akhmedova taking place in a London courtroom. In a twist, Ms. Akhmedova is now suing her son for nearly $100 million in cash and assets to collect.
From Russia with Love
Suing her son is a part of Ms. Akhmedova’s ongoing efforts to claim a portion of a $615 million divorce judgment, believed to be the largest in Britain’s history after a trial in 2016.
Her ex-husband has refused to hand over a single ruble and has kept his money, and himself, far away from Britain and the reach of its courts.
A new approach, enforce the award against her son, Temur, the older of the couple’s two sons, who is a U.K. resident who has plenty to seize.
His father gave his son a three-bedroom apartment next to Hyde Park worth about $40 million, when he was still in college, he is also the “registered keeper” of a $460,000 Rolls-Royce S.U.V., and is being sued under a theory that he is helping hide millions into trusts and tax havens around the world to frustrate his mother’s equitable distribution.
Florida Property Division
I’ve written about this case and the subject of 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….”
Moscow on Thames
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, London has been the place where rich and safety-minded Russians have parked their families, and at least some of their money.
The sons and daughters of these billionaires are now grown up, and Temur is part of a generation known for driving flashy cars and running up big tabs at posh restaurants in Knightsbridge and Mayfair.
In addition to mansions, a private jet, helicopters and masterpieces by artists like Rothko and Warhol, he bought a $500 million yacht, the Luna, from his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich.
“It is 380 feet of floating luxury, with nine decks, space for 18 guests, a crew of 50 and — just in case — a missile detection system and bombproof doors.”
Allegations of infidelity made by both husband and wife led to divorce, but Mr. Akhmedov refused to even send a lawyer to the 2016 proceedings, arguing that the couple was already divorced. A court in Moscow dissolved the marriage in 2000, he said.
Temur is described in court as his father’s “lieutenant,” but he says he was more of a secretary than a second in command. When he lived and traveled with his father, he typed dictated messages, which he sent to Mr. Akhmedov’s team of advisers, bankers and lawyers. These were often instructions, adamant and profane, on how to evade Ms. Akhmedova and her financial backers.
One of Temur’s texts included a message about a plan to transfer about $100 million worth of art in Mr. Akhmedov’s collection from a storage facility in Liechtenstein to the Luna. The point of moving the works, Temur testified, was to make them readily viewable by his father.
“I don’t want to sound boasting or anything,” Temur replied, “but on a $500 million boat, $100 million paintings isn’t really something crazy. It’s nice to look at the paintings.”
Ms. Akhmedova testified first, and her tone reflected more sorrow than enmity. She’d helped her son decorate that deluxe apartment given to him by his father. But at some point she started to believe that Temur was part of an effort to thwart her pursuit of her divorce settlement.
Temur’s own time on the stand was far more tumultuous, once he actually showed up. On opening day, Dec. 2, he was in Moscow and said in open court, via video call, that he’d been advised that his mother’s lawyers might try to win a restraining order that could strip him of his passport.
Temur denounced his mother as opportunistic and greedy. She filed for divorce, he said, right after her now ex-husband sold Northgas. He said that she’d declined an out-of-court settlement of $100 million offered by his father, a sum the younger Mr. Akhmedov considered exceptionally generous given his mother’s history of infidelity.
The New York Times article is here.