Former diplomat's wife to fight for half of £600m fortune

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A former African diplomat and multimillionaire is to fight a £600mdivorce battle with his estranged wife in the Scottish courts later this year.

The case is believed to be the most expensive to be heard in Scotland and could end with the disintegration of Chief Oladeinde Fernandez's international business empire.

Mr Fernandez, 66, the Central African Republic's former ambassador to the United Nations, is contesting the divorce, arguing that he and Aduke Fernandez were never married.

But Mrs Fernandez, who lives in a £3m house in the West End of Edinburgh, has lodged legal papers laying claim to up to half her husband's fortune. She said that she and Mr Fernandez were legally married in Nigeria in 1982 but had grown apart. She said that she could see no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation and filed for divorce. Mrs Fernandez wants a £5m lump sum and a right to a £75,000 monthly allowance for the next three years.

She is also asking the Court of Session in Edinburgh to order the sale of joint shares in oil, gold and diamond companies in the Cayman Islands, estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds.

Lawyers for Mrs Fernandez argue that Mr Fernandez, amassed a considerable fortune from business activities during the marriage.

Mr Fernandez gives his address as the Ritz Hotel in Paris but also owns a mansion at New Rochelle, New York, believed to be worth about £10.2m.

The couple enjoyed a lavish lifestyle before Mr Fernandez moved away from the family home in Edinburgh in May after more than 20 years of marriage.

This is not the first time that Mr Fernandez has had to fight off a claim for money from one of his wives.

In 1989 he tried to use diplomatic immunity to prevent his former American wife, Barbara, from being awarded title to their £4m estate in New York as part of a divorce settlement. His attempt was unsuccessful, but the wrangle went as far as the Oval Office, with the former US president, George Bush Snr, being briefed on the details of the appeal.

Mrs Fernandez said that she never had access to Mr Fernandez's accounts but believed that the joint assets were worth £600m. If divorced, she said, she would be entitled to half of that fortune.

At a preliminary hearing this week, her lawyers argued that the tribal chief should be forced to disclose his financial records within seven days so that an interim payment could be made before to the full divorce proceedings later in the year. Charles Macnair QC, for Mrs Fernandez, told the court: "There has been a report that his monthly income is $140m."

But Mr Fernandez instructed his lawyers to resist the application by insisting that he was never legally married. He said that Mrs Fernandez was therefore not entitled to any financial provision.

The court decided against forcing the chief to disclose his assets within seven days on the basis that it was an "unreasonable" timeframe.

Explaining his decision the judge, Lord Brodie, said: "He is a man of considerable means whose financial interests may not be straightforward."

The judge also pointed out that an added complication was the fact that Mr Fernandez said he was never married.

Mrs Fernandez is to return to court shortly to renew her claim for a lump sum to tide her over until the divorce proceedings are completed.

WHAT THEY OWN

* Shares in oil, gold and diamond companies in the Cayman Islands, estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds.

* A £3m grand house, right, in the West End of Edinburgh and a £700,000 flat near by.

* A £10.2m mansion in New Rochelle, New York.

* A £10m French chateau with a wine cellar said to be worth £1m.

* Two plots of land in Palma, Majorca, worth about £600,000.

* Two Rolls-Royces, which have now been shipped to France, and six private jets.