Home Estate Planning Sanctioned Russian oligarch wins appeal in multibillion-dollar London divorce battle

Sanctioned Russian oligarch wins appeal in multibillion-dollar London divorce battle

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A sanctioned Russian oligarch will be able to hold on to his $20bn fortune for a little while longer after the Supreme Court today ruled against his ex-wife in a long-running divorce battle.

Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia’s richest men and the chief executive of Norilsk Nickel, and his ex-wife Natalia Potanina, have been locked in litigation in for years, where she is seeking as much as $9bn.

Potanin was hit with UK sanctions in June 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Supreme Court ruled today that the Court of Appeal had applied the wrong legal test when granting Potanina permission to bring a claim in London after getting divorced in Russia.

The case will now go back to the Court of Appeal to decide issues that were not resolved when Potanina’s case was given the go-ahead.

Today’s decision has been highly anticipated by City lawyers for some time as it has huge implications for London, which is known as the ‘divorce capital of the world’.

Commenting on the ruling, Peter Burgess, a partner at Burgess Mee Family Law, said: “The Supreme Court considered the right of both parties to be heard as a matter of procedural fairness, which has been overlooked until now. 

“It remains possible to apply to the English courts for a ‘second bite of the financial cherry’ but this can now be challenged at a much earlier stage.”

Jennifer Dickson, a divorce lawyer at Withers, said “the forum shopping floodgates to London were partly closed this morning” following the ruling.

“The Supreme Court sent a warning shot to claimants who have divorced abroad and also want to try their hand in the English family court. They will need to show they have substantial connections to England and, from hereon, judges must now give the financially stronger party a proper chance to object to those arguments,” she said.

Sean Hilton, managing associate at Stevens & Bolton, said today’s decision has “significant implications” on those seeking to bring divorce proceedings in London having already been divorced in another country.

“Time will tell on whether today’s decision will impact on London’s position within the international divorce market,” he added.

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