North Devon high value divorce solicitor Paul Jordan reports on a Supreme Court ruling regarding company ownership of assets in divorce cases.
The Supreme Court has thwarted attempts by the owner of the Nigerian oil company Petrodel to avoid paying a reasonable settlement to his ex wife.
Her Appeal to the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned an earlier Court of Appeal decision that had controversially gone in her husband’s favour. The court has declared that seven disputed properties vested in the husband’s companies are held on a ‘resulting trust’ for the husband, so were accordingly “property to which the (husband) is entitled” – a legal ruling of great importance to the wife.
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 seven 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 designed to protect the properties, which suggested that proper disclosure would have revealed them to have been owned by the husband and therefore to be taken into consideration in the divorce settlement.