Company Ownership in Divorce Disputes

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Divorce solicitor, Paul Jordan, on the latest Supreme Court ruling regarding company ownership

On the 12th June 2013, the Supreme Court thrust a police stinger under the tyres of a fast car chartered by the cheating husband and owner of the Nigerian oil company Petrodel. For background information read my previous piece – Hey Presto : It’s not fair!

Mrs Prest has good reason to be impressed with the outcome of her Appeal to the Supreme Court which has unanimously overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision. The court has declared that the 7 disputed properties vested in the husband’s Companies are held on trust for the husband and that, in the particular circumstances of the case, the properties were held by the husband’s companies on a resulting trust for the husband so were accordingly “property to which the(husband) is entitled, either in possession or reversion”.

Lord Sumption, (described in the legal world as the “Brains of Britain” and who famously defended Roman Abramovich against a claim brought by fellow (now deceased) Russian, Oligarch Boris Berezovzky) gave the lead Judgment.

The Supreme Court decided that because the husband and his companies’ representatives, including himself, refused to provide full and open explanations about the acquisition of the 7 disputed properties, the most plausible inference from the known facts was that each of the properties was held on resulting trust by the companies for the husband. In view of what was described as “persistent obstruction and mendacity” by the husband, the Supreme Court made adverse inferences to the effect that the companies’ failure to co-operate was to designed to protect the properties, which suggested that proper disclosure would have revealed them to have been owned by the husband.

So Mrs Prest has finally struck oil due to the “deceitful and shambolic” behaviour of the husband. However,a divorcing spouse faced with a genuine company owning spouse may not strike so lucky.

Paul Jordan is a Partner at Slee Blackwell Solicitors who specialises in advising in complex finance cases. He can be contacted by telephone on 01271 349959 and by email at [email protected]