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In an important case which emphasised the finality of divorce, a woman who claimed that her ‘out and out rogue’ ex-husband hid at least £10 million from her while pleading poverty has failed to convince the Court of Appeal that she should be permitted to re-open financial aspects of her divorce.
Eight years after the end of the marriage, the husband had been sentenced to a 10-year jail term for his involvement in an international money laundering and fraud conspiracy committed on an ‘eye-watering’ scale.
The wife, who had accepted a lump sum of £270,000 and modest maintenance payments when finalising her divorce after a 12-year marriage, insisted that she too had been cheated and that her husband had lied about his finances.
Her legal team argued successfully before the High Court that the divorce settlement should be set aside and financial issues re-opened on the basis that, at the time of the divorce, the husband had assets ‘well in excess of £10 million’, although he had claimed to be £300,000 in debt.
However, whilst expressing sympathy for the wife, the Court upheld the husband’s challenge to that ruling after finding that the wife had failed to prove that he had amassed his criminal fortune before their divorce. Although his convictions had revealed him in his true colours, it did not follow that he had deviously failed to disclose assets at the time of the divorce.
Prosecutors’ allegations in the course of confiscation proceedings that the husband had realisable criminal assets worth close to £35 million did not amount to proven facts and ‘could not be relied upon’ in the family proceedings. It was therefore ‘simply not open’ to the Court to find that he had lied about his wealth during the divorce proceedings or to breathe new life into the wife’s financial claims against him.