Kozel v Kozel: Finance director accused in $100m divorce

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The Independent Online

Ewen Ainsworth, finance director of the London-listed oil group Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP), has been accused of filing a "false affidavit" in the latest twist in his boss's $100m divorce saga.

Todd Kozel, GKP's chairman and chief executive, is being sued for divorce by his wife, Ashley. Her legal team has accused Mr Kozel of "divorce planning", meaning they allege that he has hidden assets, primarily GKP shares, in various trusts. GKP is currently seeking to develop the huge oil discoveries it has made in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The divorce is taking place in Florida, where the couple lived, and Mrs Kozel's lawyers have argued that they have the right to see correspondence that Mr Kozel sent in a GKP capacity from the state.

However, in an affidavit opposing the subpoenas which were issued for the emails and other documents earlier this year, Mr Ainsworth stated: "Neither GKP nor [its subsidiary] GKPI has ever operated, conducted, engaged in or carried on a business or business venture in the State of Florida."

In a motion for sanctions against GKP and GKPI filed in Sarasota last week, Mrs Kozel's lawyers alleged that after the circuit court ordered jurisdictional recovery, the company was forced to produce 1,706 pages of emails sent by Mr Kozel from Florida. Most of these are said to have been redacted, with GKP's lawyers citing the need to protect trade secrets and "other confidential research, development and commercial information".

Mrs Kozel's team argued that not only did the redactions violate court orders, but that even though parts have been blacked out, the emails prove that GKP operates from Florida. If the court agrees, Mrs Kozel's lawyers will argue that Florida has jurisdiction over all of GKP's records, effectively ending GKP's preferred option of fighting the case in England.

Mrs Kozel's attorney, Jeffrey Fisher, stated: "Gulf Keystone should be found to be subject to personal jurisdiction because the affidavit it filed from its CFO [Mr Ainsworth] stating, in wholly unqualified terms, that the company did no business in the State of Florida and had no agents or offices was false."

Mrs Kozel's team have also complained that they believe some emails were omitted from the parcel of communications they were sent. They allege: "Despite the fact that the husband was in Florida throughout most of March 2011, no emails from that time period were produced. It defies credibility that the husband went for a month without sending a single email, given that he brags that he runs the company from his BlackBerry."

In a statement to The Independent on Sunday, GKP's lawyer, Harvey Rands at Memery Crystal, said: "GKP has produced a substantial quantity of GKP emails redacted insofar as US counsel have advised to protect against waiving legal privilege and GKP confidentiality and continues to produce other emails responsive to the Florida Court's Order.

"GKP has offered Mrs Kozel and the Florida Court to produce the documents and take part in depositions in England in accordance with the procedures for collecting evidence for use in foreign proceedings under the Hague Convention."

On Friday, the Commercial Court of England and Wales held a hearing on a separate case. Excalibur Ventures alleges that it is owed a 30 per cent stake in GKP. This is set to be played out in court next October, but Excalibur was warned it would need £8.5m to cover costs should it lose.

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