Is London no longer the divorce capital of the world? Last week saw the record breaking award of 4,020,555,987 Swiss francs and 20 centimes or 2,681,297,538 and 78 pence to the ex-wife of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the owner of the French football club AS Monaco by the Swiss courts. This precision of the division seems to echo his ex wife, Elena Rybolovlev 's comment that this sum was "exactly" what she was seeking from the court in Geneva, where she lives.
If the ruling sum proves correct (the Geneva court has declined to provide details of the ruling, declaring it is only for the parties), the amount overwhelms previous contenders to the title of world's highest divorce settlement including the estimated £1.5 billion given to the former wife of Alec Wildenstein, art tycoon, and the amount Rupert Murdoch, media mogul, was ordered to give his former wife Anna of 1 billion.
Her revealing comment punctuates the most relevant part of the story. Behind the whirl of glamorous and rather chilling facts of this case that makes something as personal and emotional as divorce an easy headline, it stands out how his wife was with him from the beginning of his rise from a student at university in Perm in the forbidding Ural Mountains and married 23 years ago in Cyprus.
From his relatively modest beginnings as the son of two doctors his wife was by his side whilst he graduated from university as a cardiologist and throughout his metamorphosis into an entrepreneur where he built his fortune on the back of former Soviet industries, turning the potash company Uralkali into one of the world's biggest fertiliser producers.
Wise and wonderful investments followed after his controlling share in Uralkali was sold for $6.5bn. He purchased a 9.7 % stake in the Bank of Cyprus, purchased AS Monaco football club and with one swipe removed ownership from the royal family for the first time, He also made famous investments in property that feature heavily not only in the newspaper articles depicting the couple's opulent lifestyle and the breakdown of their relationship, but also are key components in the case.
Elena Rybolovlev claimed the famous Donald Trump Palm Beach mansion , Maison de L' Amitie that was bought by the Russian oligarch in 2008 for £56 million and a New York apartment bought for his daughter Ekaterina for £52 million in the divorce settlement. Other properties, that make up lavish property portfolio, include a mansion in Hawaii that formerly belonged to Will Smith (12 Million) and a penthouse in Monaco supposed to be worth around £178 million. Both the New York flat and the purchase of the Greek island Skorpios for around £100 million, made notorious as the location of Aristotle Onassis's wedding to Jackie Kennedy in 1968, were purchased through trusts set up by the Russian oligarch for his daughter. Indeed, most of the fortune was transferred to the Cyprus based trusts back in 2005.
So far both parties have had runs in with the police, with the wife being arrested in February on suspicion of stealing a 15 million pound ring borrowed from her daughter, but not returned and the imprisonment of the oligarch himself in 1996-1997 whilst awaiting trial on the charge of ordering a contract killing. He was acquitted and Elena released without charge. The wife has made a statement to Swiss magazine Bilan that she is followed round the clock by detectives.
These events have peppered the bitter divorce battle that has stretched over six years in total. This final ruling, awarding half of the Oligarch's fortune to the wife is seen a triumph by her lawyers and as a "complete victory." Their conclusion is that this case landmarks a tough stance by the Swiss courts that nobody is above the law and legal trusts and offshore companies cannot cloak justice from being done to a wife who is entitled to half a fortune made during a lengthy marriage.
Dmitry Rybolovlev's lawyers state they will appeal. With two levels of appeal in the Swiss courts this case could have many exciting twists and turns yet. Tetiana Bersheda, the oligarch's lawyer, states firmly that she was confident in the base of their appeal that trust structures were immune from legal challenge and that the "validity of the trusts and the validity of the asset transfer" to the trusts had occurred long before the initiated divorce proceedings.
This story of this colourful case may yet have another chapter though so far it looks like a triumph for the wife who has the custody of their other daughter Anna and an order stating she is entitled to half the fortune.
The lengthy marriage makes this decision a just one for the wife who has been there from the beginning. The references to the oligarch being "stunned" when he found out on New Year's Eve of 2008 about the divorce petition and his frozen bank accounts may produce a lukewarm sympathy in the public eye when his wife is supposed to have suffered a long history of adultery. The emotive background behind the divorce is not really the vital point of this story. This judgment shows an international, determined trend to ensure fairness in divorce settlements, that those who are able to hide their assets are not above the law and that the courts continue to recognise the contribution of the partner who is not the lead breadwinner down to the last centime.