Russian family at heart of £450m divorce battle 'unhappiest to appear in my courtroom', judge says

Jack Hardy
·4-min read
Tatiana Akhmedova - Rick Findler/PA Wire
Tatiana Akhmedova - Rick Findler/PA Wire

A High Court judge quoted Tolstoy on Wednesday as she said the Russian family at the centre of a £450 million divorce was “the unhappiest to ever appear in my courtroom”.

Mrs Justice Knowles referenced a passage from the Russian writer’s 19th century epic, Anna Karenina, as she allowed a legal challenge brought by the ex-wife of a Russian billionaire against her son.

Tatiana Akhmedova had sued Temur Akhmedov for allegedly helping his father, Farkhad Akhmedov, hide assets following the breakdown of their marriage.

The 48-year-old was awarded a 41.5 per cent share of her ex-husband’s fortune, which exceeds £1 billion, in 2016, but has since got her hands on only £5 million.

The £453 million divorce settlement was the biggest made by a British court, but Ms Akhmedova had since been the “victim of a series of schemes designed to put every penny of the husband’s wealth beyond her reach”, the ruling concluded.

The judge agreed with Ms Akhmedova’s characterisation of her son as his father’s “lieutenant” and said the schemes had been carried out with his “knowledge and active assistance”.

The court found that very large sums had been transferred to Temur, 27, and concluded he must pay his mother, who is from Russia but lives in London, around £75 million.

In the opening words of the ruling, which spanned 128 pages, the judge wrote: “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

“With apologies to Tolstoy, the Akhmedov family is one of the unhappiest ever to have appeared in my courtroom.

“Though this case concerns wealth of which most can only dream, it is - at its core - a straightforward case in which, following their divorce, a wife seeks to recover that which is owed to her from a husband and his proxies who, it is alleged, have done all they can to put monies beyond her reach.

“Nevertheless, it is a case not without legal and factual complexity though much of that stems from the details of dishonest schemes instigated by Farkhad Akhmedov and put into effect by his advisors and his eldest son, Temur Akhmedov.”

Temur Akhmedov - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
Temur Akhmedov - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

The ruling on Wednesday was the latest round of long-running litigation and followed hearings at the High Court last year.

Temur was accused of being a “compulsive liar” during the proceedings and, in a witness statement provided at the 11th hour, the trader admitted breaching a court order to hand over his phone and electronic devices.

Alan Gourgey QC, who led Ms Akhmedova’s legal team, told the court Temur had said in the statement he was “fearful that strangers who wished to do me harm would have access to my personal and private data”.

Mrs Justice Knowles said in her ruling: “Temur has learned well from his father’s past conduct and has done and said all he could to prevent his mother receiving a penny of the matrimonial assets.

“He lied to this court on numerous occasions, breached court orders, and failed to provide full disclosure of his assets.

“I find that he is a dishonest individual who will do anything to assist his father, no doubt because he is utterly dependent on his father for financial support.”

Ms Akhmedova is also embroiled in litigation with a number of trusts into which Mr Akhmedov, 65, transferred assets.

Mrs Justice Knowles has been told that he transferred a super-yacht, the Luna, worth around £340 million, and an art collection worth around £110 million into the ownership of trusts in Liechtenstein.

Following the ruling, Ms Akhmedova said in a statement: “Today’s judgment is the inevitable conclusion given Farkhad’s failure to behave honourably in the first instance.”

Mr Akhmedov said: “Entirely predictably, given its original wrong and misguided judgment, the London court has ruled in favour of visiting ‘the sins’ of the father on an innocent and loyal son.”

A spokesman for his son said: “Like millions of young people, Temur has been caught up in the break-up of his parents’ marriage. He never sought to take sides or get involved but inevitably found himself sucked into the vortex of a bitter family dispute.

“His subsequent actions were only ever motivated by his desire to end the war between his parents.

“While he fundamentally disagrees with this judgment, he would consider it a price worth paying for should it lead to a reasonable settlement between the parents he loves.”