Russian oligarch claims Dh235m in damages after Dubai yacht impounding

Hearing planned for November 17 as Farkhad Akhmedov divorce saga continues

Luxury "Luna" yacht is seen anchored at Bodrum in Mugla Province of Turkey. Getty 
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Russian oil and gas tycoon Farkhad Akhmedov has filed for Dh235 million in damages against his former wife for lost earnings while his luxury yacht was impounded in Dubai for more than a year.

Superyacht Luna and its 50 crew have been stranded in Port Rashid after a UK court issued a worldwide freezing order on Mr Akhmedov's assets for not paying his former wife, Tatiana, the money owed in their divorce.

The couple were divorced in Moscow in the early 2000s after years of estrangement and, in 2016, London’s High Court ordered Mr Akhmedov to pay 40 per cent of his $1.4 billion (Dh5.14bn) fortune to her.

In March, Dubai’s Personal Status Court ruled that the 115-metre, Dh1.6bn vessel must be released.

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

Independent experts told Dubai courts the 2018 seizure was illegal and that Luna's owners lost Dh235m in rental income over 37-weeks.

It was the first time a Dubai court appointed an expert to assess damages in a case of this kind.

On November 17, the hearing will discuss all damages filed by Mr Akhmedov and the yacht’s owners, the Straight Establishment, an Akhmedov family trust.

Damage claims brought by Mr Akhmedov and the trust over the wrongful arrest and detention of Luna, including court fees and other losses, total Dh847m.

Legal proceedings were previously held at Dubai International Financial Centre courts but were moved to the Personal Status Court to be dealt with as a matrimonial issue.

Senior judges ruled there would be no further DIFC involvement with any future matters, including damages claimed for wrongful arrest, loss of earnings and reputation.

Judges said DIFC had no right to enforce an English High Court judgment awarding £453m (Dh2.1billion) to Mrs Akhmedova three years ago, in one of the UK’s largest divorce settlements.

Luna is one of the grandest superyachts on the water, and was once owned by Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

It was seized by Dubai authorities on February 8, 2018 and moved from dry dock to the open waters of Rashid Port, where it has remained ever since.

An arrest warrant on Luna was lifted in March by Dubai courts.

The ship’s crew have been paid in full throughout the duration of the vessel’s arrest and it is now undergoing maintenance before it can sail.

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Burford, a London AIM-listed company, is believed to have funded Mrs Akhmedova’s battle to secure the settlement in return for up to a third of the total award, or whatever was recovered.

The firm is reported to have spent Dh3.67m trying to persuade the US courts to freeze the account from which the running costs of Luna were being paid, in the misguided belief that millions of dollars were on deposit.

So far, Burford has believed to have spent almost Dh94m in legal fees in the case and in supporting Mrs Akhmedova.

"Burford's misguided attempt to place Luna under arrest in Dubai has backfired," a spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said.

"They have recovered less than one quarter of what they have spent on the case and now face massive damages claims for their wrongful actions in Dubai against Luna.

“The £50m damages report submitted to court shows it could be a very costly mistake.”