The actions of a billionaire’s wife were condemned in the High Court this week after it was revealed that she had rifled through her husband’s safe, while he was playing golf, and removed documents in order to obtain an interim freezing order on Â£20 million of his assets.
The couple lived a lavish lifestyle with property in several countries, antique furniture, fine art and, private jets and boats. However, their marriage of 27 years began to break down after the wife, only indentified as UL, began an affair. The husband, only identified as BK, then also embarked on an affair leading to the birth of an illegitimate child in 2009.
Throughout their marriage the wife was kept in the dark as to the extent of her husband’s wealth, she only received ‘an allowance’ from him. Despite this the wife was convinced that her husband could be worth ‘many hundreds of millions of pounds’ as he was frequently described in the press as a billionaire. It was only after threats by him that he would ‘disappear’ and leave her with nothing if she divorced him that she started to become concerned about her lack of knowledge regarding his finances. The wife then collected documents over a 10 year span as she ‘suspected that [they] would divorce at some stage’.
The wife obtained a Freezing Order on Â£20 million worth of assets in February of this year, in an attempt to prevent her husband carrying out his threats to sell off his assets and leave her with nothing. However, it soon became apparent that the documents presented to the Court had not been found by her ‘left lying around’, in the rubbish bin, or in his filing cabinet or briefcase. No, quite the contrary. She had broken into his safe whilst he was out of their home playing golf. She failed to mention this at all on her affidavit in support of her application for a freezing order.
Under examination by Mr Justice Mostyn the wife admitted to removing the key from the bag where her husband kept it and used it to access and remove material kept in the safe. The High Court Judge condemned the wife’s actions as a serious breach of her duty of candour and openness in bringing court proceedings and went on further to state that her actions amounted to ‘very serious misconduct’. Following this revelation it should have come as no surprise to the wife that the High Court Judge refused to renew the ‘draconian’ freezing order.
Mr Justice Mostyn was also very critical of the legal process which could allow her to obtain the order in the first place without her husband even being informed, expressing a number of concerns,
- that ex-parte procedures and orders were ‘intrinsically unfair’
- that there was ‘continued widespread abuse of the principles governing ex-parte applications’.
- a case which begins with such an order is ‘usually poisoned from that point onwards’.
By Antonia Love, Divorce Solicitor in Lancashire