Britain’s highest court will be asked to end spouses lying and hiding their wealth to avoid costly divorce settlements.
Two women will ask Supreme Court justices to overrule lower courts who concluded that husbands had deliberately misled about the true value of their assets during divorce battles, but declined to make them pay extra money to their former wives.
The Supreme Court decision could fuel still further the costly and toxic divorce battles being fought, especially in London.
In one of the most notorious cases, Michelle Young battled for more than seven years to secure half of her former husband Scot Young’s £40m fortune. Mr Young, who died last December, claimed that he was penniless after losing all his money in disastrous property deals.
The Supreme Court will hear that Varsha Gohil, 50, accepted £270,000 and the family car from solicitor Bhadresh Gohil in 2004 after divorcing him for alleged adultery and unreasonable behaviour.
In 2010 he was jailed for 10 years for money laundering after a court heard he helped Nigerian politician James Ibori steal £50m from the oil-rich region he governed. As a result of the conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service identified £35m worth of realisable assets.
In 2012, a High Court judge ruled that Mr Gohil had failed to fully disclose his true financial wealth, and ordered the original divorce settlement be discarded.
However Mr Gohil’s lawyers successfully challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice McFarlane said that Mr Gohill was an “out and out rogue involved in criminality on an eye-watering scale” and stressed it was “impossible to not feel a significant degree of sympathy for Mrs Gohil”. But he also said it was “simply not open to the court” to decide in 2012 about an issue discussed in 2004.
Alison Sharland agreed a £10.3m cash and property divorce settlement with her husband Charles after being married for seven years. However, the couple had disagreed over shares in a technology company that the husband later floated on the New York stock exchange.
When Mrs Sharland’s advisers realised the company had been valued at up to $1bn, making his stake worth £150m, they claimed he had misled his wife. A High Court judge who examined the case concluded his evidence had been “seriously misleading”, but decided it did not make any difference to the final outcome of the divorce settlement.
Ros Bever of lawyers Irwin Mitchell, who act for both women, said: “We believe the situation that our clients find themselves in is unfair and that is why we applied for permission to take their cases to the Supreme Court.”
A spokesman for Mr Sharland’s solicitors, JMW LLP, said: “We are confident, the Supreme Court judges will follow the example of their colleagues in the High Court and the Court of Appeal in agreeing that the provision made by Mr Sharland for both his family and his ex-wife was fair and reasonable.”Reuse content