British divorce lawyers specialising in international big-money work have noticed a marked increase in cases with a Russian dimension — partly because of England’s tax rule allows wealthy individuals to avoid paying tax on income earned overseas.
Roman Abramovich is the latest tycoon to part with his money after the collapse of his marriage. The billions at stake put his case in a different league from the marital disputes now before the courts in Britain. Yet the divorce of Chelsea FC’s owner could be part of a growing trend.
Abramovich is one of an increasing number of Russian oligarchs based in London for at least part of the year. Divorce lawyers specialising in international big-money work have noticed a marked increase in cases with a Russian dimension — partly because of England’s unique nondomiciled tax rule that allows wealthy individuals to avoid paying tax on income earned overseas.
There is also what is called the Yukos effect: only three years ago, Russia’s richest man then, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was jailed while Yukos, his oil company, was dismantled and sold off. This has prompted a diaspora of wealthy oligarchs to seek a secure base outside Russia.
The rush to London has also been fuelled by the success of Russia’s economy. Moscow alone is home to more than 30 billionaires — more than any other city in the world — and about a third of Russia’s millionaires.
From an oligarch’s perspective, a move to England can be expensive, as the generous tax system is matched by a divorce jurisdiction that is arguably the most generous in the world for wives. England is the jurisdiction of choice for forum-shopping wives who can be confident that the courts, in an effort to achieve fairness, will recognise their nonfinancial contributions. Awards in big-money cases can generally not be bettered in Russia, or elsewhere.