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Appeal court confirms tiger charity assets are excluded from Bray divorce settlement

Monday, 19 June, 2017

An attempt by the former wife of Stuart Bray to have the assets of a charitable trust included in her financial remedy claim has been rejected by the England and Wales Court of Appeal.

Li Quan married Bray in 2001, when both were already deeply committed to tiger conservation. The following year they set up a Mauritius trust, called the Chinese Tigers South Africa Trust, largely funded by Bray. They spent twelve years working together for the cause through this charity, with help from the Beijing government.

In 2012, however, the relationship soured, and Li Quan applied to the English courts for a financial settlement. She claimed that the trust's assets, believed to be GBP25 million, should be considered in her award, because the trust was established not only to advance the tiger cause but also as a long-term fund for the husband and wife – essentially, she claimed, a post-nuptial settlement, as well as a tax mitigation exercise. Bray denied this.

Despite presenting considerable documentary evidence for her claim, Li Quan lost her first attempt in the England and Wales High Court in 2014.

She appealed by way of a 'reasons challenge' directed at Coleridge J's High Court judgment. She alleged that the judgment 'fails adequately to give reasons for the findings of fact [Coleridge] made, his evaluation of those facts and the conclusions he reached so as to render that judgment unsustainable.' If Coleridge had explained certain specific issues in his judgment, she said, the appellate court would have had to set aside his order and remit the case for a fresh trial.

The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed Li Quan's appeal, holding that Coleridge J had properly conducted his analysis, although Lady King admitted that 'many if not most judges would have gone into significantly more detail than did [Coleridge]...this judgment, if not actually short of background and of analysis of the surrounding arguments, was perilously close to it' (Quan v Bray and others, 2017 EWCA Civ 405).

The decision is a relief to charities and families with trusts, said Claire Blakemore, a partner at law firm Withers: 'Had the court decided the other way, trusts would have become susceptible to attack in unprecedented ways, and families, charities and their advisors would have had to fundamentally rethink their approach'.


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