A wife persuaded a court to freeze £20 million of her husband’s assets using papers she raided from his safe while he was out playing golf, a High Court judge has disclosed.
Details of the case came to light in a judgment handed down at the High Court Photo: ALAMY
Mr Justice Mostyn overturned the order and said something had “seriously wrong” with the legal process which allowed her to obtain it without her husband initially even being told.
And he said that judges are becoming increasingly alarmed at “widespread abuse” of rules allowing court orders to be granted without one side’s involvement.
Details of the case came to light in a judgment handed down at the High Court in London on Tuesday.
The couple, whose identities are protected by a court order, are described as having enjoyed the trappings of “vast wealth”, with private jets, yachts, servants and several homes around the world packed with antique furniture and fine art.
The husband, an investor in his early 50s identified only by the initials BK, has been described in the media as a “billionaire” in the past although his wife – known only as UL – believes his wealth is probably in the “hundreds of millions”, the judgment says.
They moved to London from France in 2000 at which point, the husband alleges that his wife embarked on affair which he says is still going on.
He then started an affair of his own in 2005 and matters soured four years later when his lover had a baby boy, the court heard. They have separated and the wife is living in a £291,000-a-year rented property at his expense.
Although the husband initially consulted solicitors about a possible divorce it was the wife who finally initiated the process in February of this year.
Shortly afterwards she secured a freezing order on £20 million of his assets including a £10 million villa in Marbella.
She argued that because of his “complex” financial arrangements he might be able to fulfil an alleged threat to “disappear” leaving her with “nothing”.
She even cited the high profile case of Yasmin Prest, who recently won a landmark Supreme Court victory for a share of assets her husband said were owned by his companies rather than him.
But it emerged during a separate legal dispute between the two that rather than the documents she used having been left “lying around”, as she initially claimed, she had taken them from a safe where she had previously kept her jewellery.
The judge said what she had done amounted to “very serious misconduct” and a breach of her legal duty of candour.
But he also issued a warning about the use of “ex-parte” orders – obtained by one side unilaterally – which he said could create a “nuclear winter” between the two sides long after the lawyers had pocketed their fees.
He said: “I draw attention to the great concern of myself and other judges at the continued widespread abuse of the principles governing ex parte applications not only for freezing orders but also more generally.
“It is worth remembering not only that the ex parte procedure is intrinsically unfair but also, and very importantly, that a case which begins with an ex parte order is usually poisoned from that point onwards.”
He said that the order was “remarkable” in having “omitted every single standard safeguard” and seemed to be based on a figure which had been “plucked out of the air”.
SOURCE: The Telegraph