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Dubai court overrules English possession order for superyacht

Monday, 12 November, 2018

Tatiana Akhmedova's English court order against her Russian ex-husband Farkhad Akhmedov, vesting her with possession of his GBP350 million yacht, has been rejected by a Shari’a court in Dubai, where the vessel is currently detained.

The yacht, the MV Luna, is part of the GBP453 million financial remedy awarded granted to Mrs Akhmedova on their divorce in 2015. Ever since, her former husband, an oil tycoon, has been trying to put his assets beyond her reach. According to her lawyers, Withers, he hid assets in a Bermuda trust with the intention of evading his legal obligations to his wife, and launched a counter-claim that they had already divorced in Russia. This claim was only recently dismissed in a Russian court.

In December 2017, Haddon-Cave J in the England and Wales High Court set aside Mr Akhmedov's dispositions of assets and money into the trust, in an unusual example of a court judgment that pierced the corporate veil. His bank accounts and other assets were frozen under worldwide freezing orders obtained in England, Liechtenstein and the Isle of Man. Haddon-Cave ordered him, and a Liechtenstein Anstalt that he controlled, to vest the yacht in his wife's name to be sold on her behalf (Akhmedova v Akhmedov, 2018 EWFC 23 Fam).

By this time, Mr Akhmedova had sailed the Luna from its usual home in Turkey to Dubai, hoping to find some recourse through the Dubai legal system. Mrs Akhmedova thus applied to the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) court for a freezing order against both Mr Akhmedov and the Liechtenstein Anstalt, in the hope that the DIFC would issue a court order recognised by the Dubai courts themselves. This order was granted, and later supported by the DIFC Court of Appeal, and Mrs Akhmedova applied to the Dubai courts for a precautionary attachment of Luna. This too was granted, enforcing the boat's detention in Dubai.

However, Mr Akhmedov then filed a claim in Dubai that his dispute with his ex-wife was a matrimonial rather than one of commercial debt, and so should have been determined by the Dubai courts in accordance with Shari’a law.

In the latest development, the Dubai’s Court of First Instance has dismissed Mrs Akhmedova's application for possession, and ordered her to pay expenses and legal fees. The vessel, meanwhile, remains in dock at Prince Rashid Harbour in Dubai.

A spokesman for Mrs Akhmedova said the significance and the substance of the Dubai court's ruling are not yet clear, as all that has been handed down at this stage is the decision. An appeal will be considered once the full judgment together with reasons is available, the spokesperson said.

Sources