It was the most expensive divorce battle ever seen on British shores, likened to epic Hollywood movie The War of the Roses about a feuding couple starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas.
But now it turns out that, for Tatiana Akhmedova, winning a record £453 million ($590 million) settlement in London’s High Court against her husband, Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov, in 2016, may have been the easy bit.
Collecting the cash is turning out to be an altogether trickier proposition, not helped by her husband’s peripatetic existence.
Akhmedov, 65, has simply refused to pay up, meaning that all Akhmedova has managed to take possession of so far, according to The Times of London, are some minor assets including “a second-hand helicopter.”
He is at risk of arrest for contempt of court should he return to Britain, which isn’t too much a of a problem when you have a vast fortune, homes all over the world and your own super-yacht.
Indeed, the yacht, Luna, previously owned by their pal Roman Abramovich and worth £350 million ($456 million), was the subject of their latest legal dispute which took place in sharia courts in Dubai last week.
Such legal shenanigans have long offered a way for ultra-rich to draw out legal proceedings almost indefinitely, and The Times reports that in the four years since the judgement was handed down, Akhmedova has been unable to get her hands on the money, bogged down and frustrated by multiple lawsuits around the world.
The Times has established that the couple, who are estimated to have spent £50m ($65 million) in legal costs so far, have ongoing proceedings in no fewer than six jurisdictions around the world, including the Marshall Islands (where the yacht is registered), Liechtenstein (home to the family trust which owns the yacht and a £100 million ($130 million) art collection including paintings by Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Yves Klein), Russia and the United States.
Next month, a new hearing in London will see Tatiana, 48, pitted against her son, Temur, 27, who lives in a multimillion-pound apartment in London.
In the U.S., The Times reports, her lawyers have asked for her son’s email records to be disclosed, to see if they give clues as to where her husband’s assets may have been sent.
The case in Russia sees Farkhad Akhmedov trying to convince the courts that it’s all irrelevant as he says they got divorced in 2000. This claim was roundly rejected by the British courts when they issued their landmark ruling which ordered him to give her a 41.5 per cent share of his wealth.
In a statement to The Times, a representative for Akhmedov, 65, said: “He and his ex-wife were Russian citizens, married and divorced in Russia long before Tatiana came to the U.K. After the end of their marriage in 2000 he continued to provide a fabulous lifestyle for her and her two children. He does not believe this was a case which should ever have come before an English court.”
Akhmedov was one of many Russian industrialists who made vast fortunes after the collapse of the Soviet Union through a gas company he owned. In 2012, he sold his stake in the company for $1.375 billion.
Akhmedova claims that after a separation in 2000 they were reconciled, and that when she filed for divorce in the U.K. she was a British citizen.
Controversially, Akhmedova is backed by Burford Capital, a litigation finance firm that will take a slice of her payout, rumored to be around 30 percen, if it succeeds in recovering the sum the high court awarded its client.
It has been previously reported that in March 2014, Akhmedov sought to settle with his wife on the basis of a £40 million ($52 million) one-off payment, plus payments of £4 million ($5.2 million) a year for life.
She would also have got to keep one of their most prized antiques, Napoleon’s old writing desk, worth an estimated $39 million, however the offer was reportedly refused.
Maybe it was at that very desk that the determined soldier-Emperor wrote, in a letter to Josephine, “Victory belongs to the most persevering.” One imagines he might well have approved of Akhmedova’s refusal to compromise with her husband.