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No Trust in Trusts as Largest Divorce Judgment Busts Billionaire’s Attempt to Conceal Assets

               A Geneva, Switzerland court last month handed down “the most expensive divorce in history,”  according to the happy wife’s lawyer.  At least I assume the Russian tycoon’s lawyer is happy since Dmitry Rybolovlev, the former husband, was ordered to hand over an estimated $4.5 billion (4 billion Swiss francs) to his former wife, Elena Rybolovleva, amounting to half of his fortune.

According to the Guardian newspaper in London, the divorce began in 2008, when the former wife (and currently really rich person) filed for divorce in Switzerland.  Her attorney’s initial actions included winning a freeze on a number of the now only semi-uber rich Rybolovlev’s  assets, including a majority interest in AS Monaco, a French soccer club, a $295,000,000 interest in the Bank of Cyprus and Donald Trump’s former Palm Beach mansion, La Maison de l’Amitie, that he bought for $95 million in 2008. (Maybe he was trying to get away from his wife).

It appears from the article I read that the sly Mr. Rybolovlev, who made his fortune in post-Soviet Russia in the fertilizer business, transferred a significant amount of his assets to other relatives and into trusts and offshore accounts, allegedly prior to his wife beginning divorce proceedings.

The Swiss court was apparently not persuaded by the attempts to shield Mr. Rybolovlev’s assets from his wife through these trusts, and threw all of the assets into one very large pot, dividing that stew equally between the parties.  So, if you are contemplating divorce and want to put your trust in a trust to shield assets from your spouse, you may want to think twice.  This guy, with all of his money, should have been really good at trying to protect these assets.  He failed (at this point), and if he can’t win, think about your chances.

Not surprisingly, Rybolovlev’s attorney, Tetiana Bersheda, said the decision will be appealed.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the parties will settle before the appeal is resolved.  I mean, really, is it going to make a big difference in Elena’s life if she ends up with, say, $2 billion?  In the mean time, I suppose the fees each party’s legal team earns continues to mount as the case goes on… Hmmmmm.

Oh, and by the way, Elena also won custody of the parties’ 13 year-old daughter.  Glad the child was such a priority.


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