Hey presto: It’s not fair!

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“…I have no shame in saying to the injured spouses of the world’s billionaires, if you want to take him to the cleaners darling, take him to the cleaners in London”. Commenting after the recent Russian Oligarch case involving Ibramovich, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, somewhat controversially invited divorcing wives around the world to take their chances in the London Divorce Court. Boris might know how to warm his cockles but the jet setting wives might be better served by getting divorced in their home country for now, especially if their husband has significant Company assets.

The Court of Appeal in London seems to have it in for divorcing wives just now. Last year, in “The Man from Del Monte” divorce case (aka Imerman -v- Tchenguiz) the Court of Appeal chastised a divorcing wife for allowing her brothers (the infamous Tchenguiz brothers) to download confidential but highly relevant personal and business financial information from his computers. The previous open door practice of tolerating “self help” disclosure was firmly slammed shut by the Court of Appeal. Legal commentators described the case as a “cheats’ charter”.

Well, Hey Presto! the misogynistic Court of Appeal has done it again; another potential cheat’s charter, in the recent case of Petrodel -v- Prest. Mr Prest is a major shareholder in a Nigerian oil company (Petrodel) which owns numerous valuable properties all around the world. Mrs Prest listened to Boris Johnson and took Mr Prest to Court in London. Mr Prest’s financial disclosure was described by the Court as “deceitful and shambolic” and yet, in the absence of impropriety by him in the use of the Company’s structure as a sham, the Company assets could not be the subject of an Order of the Court in Divorce proceedings.

The 1897 decision of Salomon was held to still be good law leading the out voted Lord Justice Thorpe to the conclusion that this decision will “present an open road and a fast car to the money maker” who is intent upon keeping Company assets beyond the reach of the Divorce Court.

Mrs Prest was not impressed and is taking a fast car to the Supreme Court in the hope that this decision will be overturned. If fairness rules, then this will re-empower the divorcing wives of the world to continue “to pierce the corporate veil” of the husband’s Company interests enabling the Court to side step the Salomon principle and allowing the divorcing wives of the world to yet again strike oil.