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Sun 21 Oct 2018 11:28 AM

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Oligarch a step closer to losing $585m divorce battle

The possibility of a prior divorce has hung over the dispute between Akhmedov and his wife, who has been attempting to seize the billionaire's $492m luxury yacht to enforce the payout

Oligarch a step closer to losing $585m divorce battle

A Russian billionaire fighting one of the largest divorce payouts in UK history lost a Moscow court case where he was trying to prove that his marriage had been dissolved 16 years earlier.

Farkhad Akhmedov was ordered to pay his wife Tatiana Akhmedova more than 450 million pounds ($586 million) following a London trial that he refused to participate in on the grounds that he was already divorced in Russia.

Now the Moscow City Court has rejected an appeal by the businessman seeking to prove the existence of that divorce.

The possibility of a prior divorce has hung over the dispute between Akhmedov and his wife, who has been attempting to seize the billionaire’s 115-metre (380-foot) luxury yacht to enforce the payout. The $492 million ship - the MV Luna - is currently impounded in Dubai.

The Moscow court upheld a decision by a lower court that dismissed an attempt to prove the existence of the earlier divorce proceedings in Russia. Akhmedov failed to submit "sufficient and credible evidence," the lower court said in its earlier judgment.

During an early appearance in the London case, Akhmedov’s lawyers produced "official" documents confirming the Russian divorce. But in his London ruling, Judge Charles Haddon-Cave suggested that the Moscow documents "were, at all material times, forged." He awarded Akhmedova 41 percent of the billionaire’s wealth,

A lawyer for Tatiana Akhmedova said “the only divorce granted to Akhmedov was that finalised in London in 2016.”

“The Moscow City Court’s decision is closing the net on his increasingly desperate attempts to avoid accepting that reality," Yuri Kuznetsov, her lawyer, said in a statement.

Akhmedov said in a terse text message that, despite the rulings, the chance of his ex-wife collecting the full judgment was “zero.”

The 63-year-old natural-gas magnate has said he’d supported his wife after their marriage was dissolved in Russia. He blamed cynical lawyers for later filing for divorce in London, and UK politics for the court’s decision. He said he planned to appeal the Moscow ruling to Russia’s supreme court.

A spokesman for the billionaire said Akhmedov will continue to resist the English judgment "using every legal means at his disposal, in whichever court in the world his ex-wife and her army of expensive lawyers may try to enforce it."

"What is at issue in the Russian proceedings is the whereabouts of critical court documents following actions by Mr. Akhmedov’s ex-wife Tatiana and her agents to destroy evidence of the 2000 Russian divorce," he said.

A spokesman for Akhmedova responded, saying: "this allegation is as fanciful as it is false – altering a public record would be entirely impossible within the Russian legal system. First these documents were found to have been forged, then he claimed they were lost, and now he claims they were destroyed."

For Akhmedova and her backers, the prize remains the Luna. The nine-deck yacht, which has 50 crew and two helipads, was originally built for Roman Abramovich before Akhmedov purchased it in 2014. It boasts a 20-metre outdoor swimming pool, eight smaller boats and a mini-submarine.

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