Court rules on Dubai-moored superyacht at centre of record UK divorce deal

Tatiana Akhmedova hoped to keep the vessel 'Luna' in her divorce settlement from Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov

The MV Luna superyacht, owned by Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov, moored at Port Rashid in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. At the heart of the largest money fight that London’s divorce courts have ever known sits the Luna -- a 115-meter (380-foot), nine-deck luxury motor yacht holed up at a berth in a dusty marina in Dubai. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
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The ownership of a 116-metre superyacht at the heart of the divorce settlement between Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov and his ex-wife Tatiana has been decided in a Pacific Islands court.

The Luna, a nine-deck vessel worth $353 million, has been moored in Port Rashid in Dubai for more than two years while the couple negotiated their divorce.

Mrs Akhmedova hoped to make the yacht part of her $640m settlement, and this month a court in the Marshall Islands ruled in her favour.

The chain of volcanic islands might not seem an obvious place to fight out a divorce, but a ship is bound by the law of the flag it flies, and the Luna sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

A ruling there in Mrs Akhmedova's favour, however, was overturned by the supreme court of the Pacific islands, according to The Times newspaper.

That may mean the matter returns to Dubai, where courts last year said they had no business ruling on a London divorce court's determination on Mr Akhmedov's assets.

Tatiana Akhmedova said she was 'forced' to pursue her son because he’d aided her ex-husband in hiding assets from her. AP

The long-running litigation has moved repeatedly between jurisdictions, as Mr Akhmedov attempts to avoid paying out the sum awarded to his wife of 21 years.

The Azerbaijan-born tycoon described the 2016 divorce order issued in Britain as illegitimate, and wrote in a WhatsApp message to his son, "I will burn this money rather then will give her."

He moved assets into Liechtenstein trusts, including $140m of artworks, such as paintings by Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko.

Mrs Akhmedova also accused her 27-year-old son Temur of hiding money, alleging his father transferred assets into his name.

She won this case, and the High Court in London ordered the junior Mr Akhmedov to pay his mother more than $100m in three sums to his mother – two in US dollars and one in Russian rubles.

The Luna had appeared to be the one asset Mrs Akhmedova could win, but with this latest ruling the vessel seems to have slipped from her grasp.