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Boris Johnson Urges Billionaires And Oligarchs To 'Divorce In London'

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Boris's rallying cry to the world's billionaires was made at Monday's CBI Conference
Boris's rallying cry to the world's billionaires was made at Monday's CBI Conference

Boris Johnson today made an extraordinary appeal for billionaires' wives to sue for divorce in London.

The Mayor insisted the capital was the perfect place for "injured spouses" to take their wealthy other halves "to the cleaners".

The call came in a speech to the CBI conference, in which he also delivered a series of jibes at coalition policies.

He dismissed "absurd" proposals for a tax raid on owners of expensive homes, warning that high rates of personal taxation would make Britain less competitive.

He also again demanded that a third runway be ruled out at Heathrow Airport, and mocked turnout in the recent police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections.

Hailing the capital as the "chief glory of the UK economy", Mr Johnson said it dominated the world in the areas of law, property, insurance and accountancy.

"I would never encourage anyone to sue, but if one oligarch feels defamed by another oligarch, it is London's lawyers who apply the necessary balm to the ego," he said.

"I have no shame in saying to the injured spouses of the world's billionaires if you want to take him to the cleaners... take him to the cleaners in London. Because London cleaners will be grateful for your business."

John Burrell, a partner in the family department of Mayfair-based solicitors Davenport Lyons, backed Mr Johnson all the way.

He told Huffington Post UK: “London has the best English law divorce lawyers in the world. Any billionaire who is being divorced may find that England is one of the most generous jurisdictions in the world for those seeking a large divorce settlement.”

And Simon Edwards, Director and Principal Solicitor at Prolegal Solicitors, said: “Boris is right to issue a rallying cry that the UK legal industry is open for business. The Justice system in this country is unequalled and we should be confident about selling it on the world stage. The reason Boris focused upon the wives of oligarchs is that the provision on divorce for the financially weaker spouse is very generous in the English courts."

However, divorce lawyer Richard Kershaw, a partner at Hunters Solicitors, warned Mr Johnson that he shouldn't have such a gung-ho attitude.

He said: "We don't agree with the Mayor that using the Family Division should be compared to taking a spouse to the cleaners.

"The courts are tasked with achieving a fair settlement for all parties, wealthy or otherwise. To that end, a small group of specialist family lawyers in London are used to investigating complex financial arrangements, be they company, property or trust based, and pursuing fair settlements for their clients."

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Hassall, partner and head of the family division at top 50 national law firm Gateley, said: “English divorce law has really benefited from international clients, because our courts are widely regarded to be amongst the best in the world. This is largely down to the transparency of our courts system and the expertise of the English legal profession, which is extremely experienced in handling cases for high-net-worth individuals, with complicated business affairs.

"Of course, Boris’ comments highlight the expertise of the London legal community, but these skills are not just confined to the capital and are common throughout the English courts system.

“I would, however, introduce a word of caution – there has been a bit of a backlash amongst the judiciary, in recent months, in regards to billionaire settlements and the seemingly disproportionate sums that wives are being awarded.

"It’s a point that Lord Justice Thorpe commented on recently when he said that wives should not expect large pay-outs – particularly if they have only been married for a short period of time.”

Britain's Biggest Divorce Settlements

Insurance Magnate John Charman And Ex Beverly
When? 2006
How much? Beverly netted £48 million after a 29-year marriage

Phil Collins And Orienne Cevey
When? 2008
How much? £25 million for Swiss wife Orienne after seven years together

Heather Mills and Paul McCartney
When? 2008
How much? £24.3 million, which left Sir Paul with around £380 million in the bank.

Advertising Exec Martin Sorrell and Sandra Sorrell
When? 2005
How much? £30 million

Mark Dixon and Trudy Dixon
When? 2005
How Much? £28 million