Hiding Assets Doesn’t Pay In Divorce
Richardson-Ruhan v Ruhan
Divorce cases do not get much nastier than that of Tania Richardson-Ruhan and Andy Ruhan. In the latest decision surrounding the financial settlement battle, Mr Justice Mostyn stated there were no less than eight interlocutory judgments on the matter and this by no means represented the full extent of the litigation embarked on by the couple.
To further illustrate the rancour between the pair, in the latest round of litigation in October 2017, the court heard Ms Richardson Ruhan was questioned by police investigating a plot to kill her estranged husband.
She denied paying a hitman with a “view to getting rid of him”.
Mr Ruhan, who has been dubbed “the most successful tycoon you’ve never heard of” and his wife were married for 16 years before separating in 2013. They lived with their two children in a £4.8 million home in Buckinghamshire.
With a fortune described as “so big it is impossible to quantify”, Mr Ruhan made his millions through property development and building data centres in the UK through Global Switch, a company valued at around £4.4 billion. Mr Ruhan made around £100 million from selling Global Switch. He also bought a chain of Thistle hotels and sold them for a huge profit.
Mrs Richardson-Ruhan came from a wealthy family. Together, they lived an opulent lifestyle with two luxury superyachts, a collection of vintage cars and a helicopter to travel to and from business meetings. In addition, four years ago, Mr Ruhan paid £1 million to buy a 2% stake in the Lotus Formula One team and joined the board.
However, trying to find the remnants of Mr Ruhan’s great fortune is proving to be torturous for his estranged wife. She told the court that since her husband moved out of the family home four years ago, she has not spoken to him. He is currently living on one of his yachts, which, along with the second vessel, are up for sale to the tune of €6.9 million and £1.5 million respectively.
Mr Richardson-Ruhan’s challenge is to prove that her husband is still phenomenally successful and wealthy and find the missing millions.
Money gone missing?
At a hearing last month, Mr Justice Mostyn stated, “It is common ground that the family enjoyed a very high standard of living. This is because the husband was a highly successful businessman and was very rich. The question that I must decide is whether he still is very rich.”
Mr Ruhan emphatically claimed to the court he was not. In fact, he asserted he was insolvent to the tune of £2 million. This, he claimed in court, was because virtually his entire fortune, some £200 million, was stolen from him in March 2014 by a convicted fraudster Dr Gerald Smith with the assistance of his (the husband’s) treacherous former “front-men” Simon Cooper and Simon McNally. Mrs Richardson-Ruhan disputed this. She argued that her husband remained vastly rich in that very large sums, or the right to receive very large sums, are held on his behalf by a nominee, Anthony Stevens. A nominee is a person under whose name an asset is registered, but they are not the beneficial owner. Mr Ruhan frequently assigned assets to nominees, including his home and yachts.
Mrs Ruhan told the court that, prior to their separation, she told her husband she did not trust Mr Stevens. Her husband replied, “Well, I hope we can as he’s got all our money.” Justice Mostyn stated he believed this account to be true. He went on to say:
“This is not a case where the husband’s lies can be explained as being an example of a false bolstering of an otherwise truthful case, or where he has tried to cover up matters that would bring upon him shame or disgrace. The lies were told in order to conceal the truth.”
The court identified a sum of £12 million left over from £92 million which was spent by Mr Stevens. The judge ruled this was mostly spent to benefit the husband. Accordingly, Mr Ruhan should be treated as having the sum of £12 million available to him for the purposes of the distributive award.
In addition, a contract concluded in 2016 would have left Mr Ruhan with £73.75 million plus 50% of another company, although “nothing has been paid” and the agreement is subject to ongoing litigation.
“In my judgment, no one has any valid claim against the husband, apart from the wife, to those assets,” the judgment said.
Mrs Richardson-Ruhan’s solicitors have been instructed to “formulate what distribution she seeks in her favour.”
This sorry tale, which is far from over, illustrates the expense and stress ill-advised decisions in high-net-worth family law cases can cause. It is a fundamental principle that both couples must make a full and frank disclosure regarding their finances when they divorce. Failure to do so can result, as it has in this case, in vast amounts being spent on forensic accountancy, freezing orders and litigation.
If you believe your spouse is hiding or may attempt to hide assets to avoid having them become part of a financial settlement, it is crucial that you obtain expert legal advice as soon as possible to protect your best interests.
Rosie Bracher are specialist family law solicitors based in Barnstaple. We have the knowledge and expertise to advise you on all matters involving high-net-worth divorce. Please contact our office on 01271 314 904 and arrange to speak to one of our team.