One of the largest English divorce cases, with an award of £453 million and extensive multi-jurisdictional asset tracing, has finally come to an end.
It has emerged in the press that after five years of legal wrangling, Tatiana Akhmedova, who hired some of “Britain’s most sought-after lawyers” and with the backing of litigation funder, Burford Capital, has reached a settlement agreement with her ex Russian billionaire husband, Farkhad Akhmedov.
Tatiana Akhmedova and Farkhad Akhmedov met in 1989, married and moved to London four years later.
Mr Akhmedov became very successful in pursuing business interests in the Russian oil and gas industry. In November 2012, he sold his shares in a Russian gas producing company for some $1.375 billion. Mrs Akhmedova was a “hands-on” mother, caring for and bringing up their children (and her ex-husband’s child from his first marriage).
The date of their separation was hotly disputed. Mrs Akhmedova argued that the marriage broke down in October 2013 when she issued her divorce petition in London, and only ended after a failed reconciliation in late 2014. Mr Akhmedov insisted that it ended in 1999 or, at the latest, 2004 in Moscow. The English Court ruled in Mrs Akhmedova’s favour on this point.
Following a High Court hearing in London in 2016, Mrs Akhmedova was awarded £453,576,152 (41.5% of the total marital assets) in financial remedy proceedings (AAZ v BBZ  EWHC 3234 (Fam)). In breach of the Court’s orders Mr Akhmedov did not appear at the hearing and was not legally represented.
Later the same year, a Financial Remedy Order giving effect to the financial award and a world-wide Freezing Order over the billionaire’s assets were granted by the High Court.
After that, Mrs Akhmedova sought relief against various third parties, including their eldest son, Temur Akhmedov. Earlier this year the English High Court Relief was granted by the High Court (Akhmedova v Akhmedov and others  EWHC 545 (Fam)). Amongst other things, the Court found that Mrs Akhmedova has been the victim of a series of schemes designed to put “every penny” of Mr Akhmedov’s wealth beyond her reach and that “that strategy was designed to render [Mrs Akhmedova] powerless by ensuring that, if she did not settle her claim for financial relief following their divorce on [Mr Akhmedov’s] terms, there would be no assets left for her to enforce against.” The Court also held that “regrettably, those schemes were carried out with Temur’s knowledge and active assistance”.
Until recently it was reported that Mrs Akhmedova’s pursuit of enforcement remedies across the world over many years achieved limited success, generating some £50 million, well short of the English High Court judgment sum in her favour.
However, the Times recently reported that Mr Akhmedov’s spokesman confirmed that the case has now settled following an offer of £150 million. Mrs Akhmedova has not yet commented publicly on this latest development. The High Court will ultimately have to approve the deal reported to have been struck by the parties.
Brown Rudnick involvement
Prior to these events, solicitors representing Mrs Akhmedova obtained a search order and imaging order over certain premises and electronic devices owned by Temur Akhmedov. Search orders are exceptional orders, but they are often highly effective in preserving key evidence and obtaining relevant information from defendants to civil proceedings where there is often a real risk of information or assets being hidden and/or destroyed in order to seek to defeat a claim and/or enforcement of a judgment.
Brown Rudnick regularly execute and/or respond to search orders (as well as to alternatives in the form of doorstep delivery up and imaging orders) and have been appointed by the court as a Supervising Solicitor of a search order to personally serve the order, oversee the search and carry out a protective role to ensure that the order is executed appropriately and effectively. In this instance, a team from Brown Rudnick, led by partner Jane Colston was appointed by the High Court to carry out that role, and to review the materials found on the devices so as to determine their relevance to the Akhmedov case (Akhmedova v Akhmedov & Ors  EWHC 3006 (Fam)).
Although the Covid 19 restrictions imposed by the UK government are progressively being removed, the conduct of litigation in England during the pandemic had to be adapted, particularly in relation to the use of search, imaging and doorstep delivery up orders. They are intrusive, as they do require a respondent party to allow the search team (which will usually include the applicant’s solicitors, the court-appointed Supervising Solicitor and forensic experts), for instance, to conduct a search of premises or image the respondent’s electronic devices as permitted by the order. The risks associated with the pandemic and indoor gatherings in particular will continue to be of concern for the foreseeable future, and it is therefore likely to be necessary, at least to some extent, to continue approaching search and doorstep delivery up orders with the Covid 19 precautions laid down by the court in mind (Calor Gas Ltd v Chorley Bottle Gas Ltd  EWHC 2426 (QB)) in the way in which Brown Rudnick have become very familiar.
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