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Britain's biggest divorce fought in London as Russian oligarch's ex-wife fights for £15bn …

Britain's biggest divorce fought in London as Russian oligarch's ex-wife fights for £15bn …

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Natalia Potanina is seeking a £5bn payout from her ex-husband in London's High Court

Natalia Potanina is seeking a £5bn payout from her ex-husband in London’s High Court

A £15 billion divorce – the biggest ever staged in Britain – is to be heard at the High Court after a Russian oligarch’s estranged wife brought the battle to London to demand a third of his fortune, MailOnline can reveal.

Tycoon Vladimir Potanin – Russia‘s second richest man – defeated his ex-wife in a long-running legal dispute in Moscow, but now she is bringing her huge financial claim to Britain – and he has turned to queen of the divorce courts Fiona Shackleton to keep her away from his money.

Jilted Natalia Potanina, 58, who has lived in London for several years, is likely to argue the Russian legal system was biased against her and in favour of her powerful former spouse, the father of her three grown up children. 

She is now using the English courts to pursue her alimony demands against her ex-husband who made his fortune in metals following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Potanin’s wealth is estimated to be £15bn by Bloomberg, although the 58-year-old magnate claimed in court in Moscow that he is nowhere near as rich.

Sources in Russia claim she will demand £5.76bn in London, although her legal team has not commented on the case.

The ex-wife has claimed in an interview with MailOnline metals giant Nornickel CEO Potanin ‘dumped, betrayed and humiliated’ her after starting a relationship with an employee 15 years his junior with whom he had a love child.

He has hired legendary divorce specialist Baroness Shackleton – dubbed the ‘Steel Magnolia’ for her charm and tough negotiating skills – to defend him.

Tycoon Vladimir Potanin – Russia's second richest man – defeated his ex-wife Natalia in a long-running legal dispute in Moscow, but now she is bringing her huge financial claim to Britain

Tycoon Vladimir Potanin – Russia’s second richest man – defeated his ex-wife Natalia in a long-running legal dispute in Moscow, but now she is bringing her huge financial claim to Britain

Jilted Natalia, who has lived in London for several years, is likely to argue the Russian legal system was biased against her and in favour of her powerful former spouse (above)

Jilted Natalia, who has lived in London for several years, is likely to argue the Russian legal system was biased against her and in favour of her powerful former spouse (above)

Sources in Russia claim Natalia - who has three children with metal magnate Potanin - will demand £5.76bn in London, although her legal team has not commented on the case

Sources in Russia claim Natalia – who has three children with metal magnate Potanin – will demand £5.76bn in London, although her legal team has not commented on the case

Mrs Potanina is deploying Charles Howard QC in the English courts to lead her case which concerns the division of property after their 31 year marriage.

Speaking from her London home, she told MailOnline: ‘It’s a complicated matter that will be settled in the courts of London.

Potanin has hired legendary divorce specialist Fiona Shackleton (above) - dubbed the 'Steel Magnolia' for her charm and tough negotiating skills - to defend him

Potanin has hired legendary divorce specialist Fiona Shackleton (above) – dubbed the ‘Steel Magnolia’ for her charm and tough negotiating skills – to defend him

‘This is my private life and I’m trying to sort it out. It’s in the hands of my lawyers.’

Baroness Shackleton, 63, who has previously represented royals Prince Charles and Prince Andrew after their marital breakdowns, is expected to argue that the case should be thrown out.

She will argue that the divorce has already been heard once in Moscow and despite Mrs Potanina now living in the UK, it involves two Russian citizens and has no place in the English courts.

Last year Shackleton was successful in an alternative argument when she won £453 million for Russian oil and gas oligarch’s wife Tatiana Akhmedova against her husband Farhad Akhmedov in the UK’s largest-ever divorce settlement.

She is currently representing Princess Haya bint Hussein – one of six wives of the ruler of Dubai – in her matrimonial battle with husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum .

Her other prominent clients included comedian David Walliams.

The fact that Britain has become the go-to venue for a number of high-profile Russian divorce cases where wives can expect bigger payouts has brought criticism in the Soviet media, which portrays Shackleton as ‘Old Woman Shapoklyak’ – a Soviet-era fictional baddie.

‘Over this process looms the shadow of ‘Old Woman Shapoklyak’ Fiona Shackleton, but, with a fundamental difference. Now she will be on the side of Vladimir Potanin,’ reported apn.ru

‘What about principles, like the struggle for the rights of oppressed women?’

Another report is scathing about Mrs Potanina’s move to bring the divorce case to the UK.

The Potanins divorced in Russia in 2014 after their long marriage when she was reported to have received a settlement of £5.5 million, a fraction of what she is now reportedly claiming

The Potanins divorced in Russia in 2014 after their long marriage when she was reported to have received a settlement of £5.5 million, a fraction of what she is now reportedly claiming

Potanin is pictured giving away his daughter Anastasia Potanina, 34, when she married a Russian dancer ten years her junior in a sumptuous ceremony on the Cap-Eden-Roc hotel on the Côte d'Azur

Potanin is pictured giving away his daughter Anastasia Potanina, 34, when she married a Russian dancer ten years her junior in a sumptuous ceremony on the Cap-Eden-Roc hotel on the Côte d’Azur

The billionaire has vast wealth including his £150m superyacht, which is often seen in Monaco

The billionaire has vast wealth including his £150m superyacht, which is often seen in Monaco 

The Russian's second yacht is the 290ft Nirvana (above) and he is thought to be building a third

The Russian’s second yacht is the 290ft Nirvana (above) and he is thought to be building a third

‘Having used all opportunities that exist in Russia, Natalia rather cynically decided to try to conduct her divorce proceedings in London, hoping that here she would be able to sue billions from her ex-husband,’ stated wek.ru

The Potanins divorced in Russia in 2014 after their long marriage when she was reported to have received a settlement of £5.5 million, a fraction of what she is now reportedly claiming.

She has told how Potanin asked her for a divorce over tea in 2013, claiming he called for their settlement to be backdated to 2007.

‘I thought this was some kind of a badly-worded tease, a joke,’ she told MailOnline.

‘How else would you look at it?

‘I sat with him at the end of 2013, and he was saying ‘Let’s divorce behind, so that the divorce and any settlement is dated to 2007.’

Pictures on Potanin’s luxury yachts prove they were a couple at the time he claimed they had already split, she said.

She contends their marriage was crucial to his rise as one of the most prominent Reds-to-Riches tycoons.

Three years ago she told MailOnline she was being ‘tortured’ by her former husband into living apart from her youngest son, then 17, who like an ‘orphan’, and her ailing mother, then 97, who both desperately needed her.

At the same time she claimed he saddled her with technical debts that meant if she returned to her homeland, she could be prevented from leaving again, a claim he has never directly responded to.

‘I need to get back to Moscow, but I cannot without becoming a hostage there,’ she said in an extraordinary exclusive interview.

In their Russian legal dispute she argued that her husband was worth considerably more than his headline wealth, while at one point he claimed that he was no longer a billionaire, and was down to his last millions, living on a salary of £300,000 a month.

Three years ago Mrs Potinina told MailOnline she was being 'tortured' by her ex-husband and living apart from her youngest son and elderly mother

In their Russian legal dispute she argued that her husband was worth considerably more than his headline wealth

Three years ago Mrs Potinina told MailOnline she was being ‘tortured’ by her ex-husband into living apart from her youngest son and her ailing mother, then 97, who both needed her

Potanin has moved on with his second wife Ekaterina with whom he has two children. His former wife said he told her he wanted a divorce in 2013 and that he wanted it backdated to 2007, when his assets were smaller than they are today

Potanin has moved on with his second wife Ekaterina with whom he has two children. His former wife said he told her he wanted a divorce in 2013 and that he wanted it backdated to 2007, when his assets were smaller than they are today

She alleged he secreted his vast wealth out of her reach in a complex web of offshore companies while pleading to judges in Moscow that he has virtually no assets.

Potanin has held that he does not directly own companies that are often linked to him.

She has argued that she should be entitled to half of the dividends from the shares, even if she cannot have the shares themselves, reported Russian legal agency RAPSI.

In Moscow she unsuccessfully sought to persuade a court to recognise as common property shares in foreign companies Pharanco, Bektanco, Decoso and Lovenco, as well as rights to trustee shares of these entities.

She also wanted to divide rights for shares in metals giant Nornickel and precious metals producer Polyus, and to collect compensation for the stakes from Potanin.

Potanin’s Interros Group has regularly said that it ‘never gives any comments on the circumstances of the company founder’s private life’.

Baroness Shackleton was approached by MailOnline for comment on the case.

Potanin has three children from his marriage to Natalia, and two from his second marriage to current wife Ekaterina.

Last year he gave away his heiress daughter Anastasia, 35, when she wed dancer Artyom Kruchin – ten years her junior – in a sumptuous ceremony at Cap-Eden-Roc hotel on the Côte d’Azur.

Pictures and video did not show Anastasia’s mother attending the wedding.

Anastasia is a former Russian acquabike champion and now a contemporary art gallery owner in Moscow.

Anastasia has not spoken of her parents’ acrimonious split but has remained close to her father.

Her brothers are believed to be close to their mother. 

What are Britain’s biggest divorce payouts?

London has earned its reputation as the divorce capital of the world following a series of huge pay-outs in favour of the ‘financially weaker spouse’.

The nickname – cemented by an emphasis on full disclosure from both parties – has encouraged foreign-born spouses to seek divorce settlements in London, rather than their home country.

Another reason for taking legal action in London is the fact that English courts have the discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis whether prenuptial agreements are binding.

In 2012, The Times found that a sixth of divorce cases heard by English courts involved foreign nationals. Of the cases where huge sums were involved, around half are thought to involve international couples.

Ayesha Vardag, a lawyer who has represented a number of wealthy clients in high-profile divorce battles, said: ‘The principle that there is no discrimination between breadwinner and homemaker is the cornerstone of why the English jurisdiction is seen as a particularly fair one for the financially weaker spouse.’

MailOnline takes a look at some of the biggest divorce payouts…

Farkhad Akhmedov, a Russian energy tycoon

Farkhad Akhmedov, a Russian energy tycoon

1. Akhmedov v Akhmedova – £453million

Tatiana Akhmedova was given a 41.5% share of Farkhad Akhmedov’s £1billion-plus fortune following a London divorce court money fight.  

News of Ms Akhmedova’s payout emerged during the summer of 2017 following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London overseen by a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave revealed detail of the case in a written ruling published on a legal website.

His award was thought to be the biggest made by a divorce court judge in England.

However, the ruling has been challenged through an appeal. 

2. Cooper v Hohn –  £337m

The case of philanthropists Sir Christopher Hohn and Jamie Cooper was concluded by Mrs Justice Roberts in December 2014. 

The husband was successful in his argument for ‘special contribution’ and the judge departed from equality to award the wife £337 million, 36 per cent of the overall total assets. 

In June 2017 Sir Geoffrey Vos then ordered Sir Christopher to make a payment of £282 million from his charity into his ex-wife’s own foundation.

3. Estrada v Juffali –  £75m

The divorce between model Christina Estrada and Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali was finalised by Mrs Justice Roberts in June 2016. 

The case was notable for the consideration of the couple’s ‘stratospheric’ standard of living and Juffali’s Islamic marriage to a second wife in 2012. 

Mr Juffali had previously tried to avoid the proceedings through a ‘spurious’ assertion of diplomatic immunity.

The divorce between model Christina Estrada and Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali was finalised by Mrs Justice Roberts in June 2016

The case was notable for the consideration of the couple's 'stratospheric' standard of living and Juffali's Islamic marriage to a second wife in 2012

The divorce between model Christina Estrada and Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali was finalised by Mrs Justice Roberts in June 2016

4.  WM v HM – £73m

Mr Justice Mostyn presided over the case of WM v HM in May 2017. The husband’s claim for ‘special contribution’ was dismissed and the wife was awarded £73 million. 

The case was also interesting for Mostyn J’s words on valuing a business in hindsight.

Former Miss Malaysia beauty queen Pauline Chai wanted around £100m from ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage

Former Miss Malaysia beauty queen Pauline Chai wanted around £100m from ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage

5. Chai v Peng £64.5m 

Former Miss Malaysia beauty queen Pauline Chai wanted around £100m from ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage.

Dr Khoo, non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings, said she should pocket about £9m.

After analysing the evidence at the trial at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Bodey announced his decision last year that Ms Chai should get a £64m package made up of cash and property. 

6. Al-Baker v Al-Baker £61m

The judgment for the multinational case of Sarah Al-Baker v Abdul Amir Al-Baker was handed down in October 2016 by Mr Nicholas Cusworth QC. 

The case which stretched between civil and religious courts was remarkable because of the husband’s consistent non-compliance and non-disclosure which resulted in the wife being awarded £61 million.

7. M v M – £54m

Mrs Justice Eleanor King DBE presided over the case of M v M in August 2013, resulting in the wife being awarded £54m. 

Owing to the Russian couple’s marital assets being tied up in offshore trusts, the case had an extra five respondents.

8. Charman v Charman – £48m 

In 2006 Beverley Charman, the former wife of insurance magnate John Charman was awarded a £48million settlement by the English courts in proceedings which took two years.

Mr Charman appealed the decision but the pay out, which made legal history at the time, was upheld in 2007. 

9. Sorrell v Sorrell – £30m

The case of Lady Sorrell v Sir Martin Sorrell was heard by Mr Justice Bennett in July 2005. 

This is one of the rare cases where a husband successfully argued ‘special contribution’, which led to Lady Sorrell being awarded £30million, a 60/40 split of the marital assets.

The acrimonious split saw the head of advertising group WPP living for a time in the basement of their Knightsbridge townhouse. 

In the divorce settlement, she also got two parking spaces at Harrods. 

10. Young v Young £20m (£6m costs)

Mr Justice Moor handed down the judgment for Young v Young in November 2013. 

Michelle and Scot Young were involved in a particularly public divorce battle where, though he was legally bankrupt, the wife insisted that the husband had thousands or millions hidden offshore. 

Ultimately, the wife was awarded £20 million and the husband was ordered to pay £6 million – believed to be the highest costs order in family law history.    

Michelle and Scot Young were involved in a particularly public divorce battle where, though he was legally bankrupt, the wife insisted that the husband had thousands or millions hidden offshore

Michelle and Scot Young were involved in a particularly public divorce battle where, though he was legally bankrupt, the wife insisted that the husband had thousands or millions hidden offshore

Many divorces do not end up in court, such as the 2008 split of Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone and his wife, Slavica, who got a settlement estimated at £790million.



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