Russian oligarch's Dh1.8bn superyacht free to leave Dubai

Yacht at centre of Britain's largest divorce case has been impounded in Dubai since 2017

Superyacht Luna owned by Russian billionaire Farkad Akhmedov is docked at Port Rashid in Dubai. Reuters
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A $450 million superyacht at the centre of London’s largest divorce fight may be finally allowed to set sail from a Dubai port

The 115-metre MV Luna had been held in Dubai while lawyers for Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov fought a UK court order that transferred it to his former wife.

Dubai’s Court of Appeals dismissed Tatiana Akhmedova’s attempt to enforce the British ruling last week, saying it was contradictory to Sharia law.

The ruling will come as a setback to litigation funder, Burford Capital, who provided Ms Akhmedova with funding in exchange for a share of up to 30 per cent of any recovery from the divorce case.

The Dubai court lifted the arrest warrant on the nine-deck ship but the vessel’s future is still in question.

The British judgment remains in effect alongside an injunction from the Marshall Islands, the flag state of the yacht, a spokesman for Ms Akhmedova said.

Tatiana Akhmedova arrives at court which is considering legal issues in the divorce case against Russian billionaire businessman Farkhad Akhmedov, at a Court of Appeal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London Thursday Feb. 1, 2018.  Akhmedova was awarded Pounds 453 million (US 645 million dlrs) in divorce settlement, but according to her legal team no payment has yet been made. (Rick Findler/PA via AP)
Tatiana Akhmedova. Rick Findler / PA via AP

Dubai’s highest court can still review the decision.

“[Ms Akhmedova] remains confident in the merits of her case and that the Dubai courts will support common standards of international co-operation by recognising and enforcing overseas judgments” her spokesman said.

Burford said it would also continue to pursue the case.

“Farkhad Akhmedov is a judgment debtor evading an English Court order," said the company, which is based in New York but listed in London.

"As he will discover, nobody is above the law."

As part of its asset recovery program, Burford has given Ms Akhmedova £18m (Dh85.7m) to fund the litigation, a representative for Mr Akhmedov said.

The yacht, which has 50 crew and two helipads, has been the focus of litigation for almost two years.

It was impounded in Dubai and put into dry dock in an initial victory for Burford before Mr Akhmedov persuaded the local courts to release the boat.

The British order was made after a judge said in December 2016 that the billionaire must pay 41 per cent of his assets to his wife.

The marriage ended two years earlier. Mr Akhmedov refused to take part in the UK case and moved back to Russia.

“This judgment means their attempts to enforce this matrimonial and maintenance judgment in the UAE have now failed,” said his lawyer, Carlo Fedrigoli.

It is not the only legal fight stemming from the seizure of the yacht. Mr Akhmedov also brought a $200m (Dh734.6m) claim for damages, naming Burford as a defendant.

The Dubai Court of First Instance dismissed the claim in January.

Farkhad Akhmedov denied Burford’s claim that he was seeking to place himself above the law.

“I am a law-abiding person, but Burford is not the law,” he said.

“What it likes to call the law is simply its business interests and I will never obey the dictates of that business.

“This is a profoundly unfair and twisted legal ruling from which Burford is seeking to profit at the expense of me and my family.”