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Oligarch faces CHF4 billion Swiss divorce

Dmitry Rybolovlev (left) and Prince Albert II Of Monaco at a football match between Marseille and Monaco, which is owned by Rybolovlev Keystone

A Swiss court has ordered a Russian billionaire to pay CHF4,020,555,987.80 ($4.5 billion) to his ex-wife in what could become the biggest divorce settlement in history.

In papers delivered on Monday to both parties, a Geneva court said Dmitry Rybolovlev must pay the sum – almost double what Swiss bank Credit Suisse was fined the same day for aiding tax evasion in the United States – to his former wife, who lives in Geneva.

The judgement also granted his ex-wife property worth CHF130.5 million in Gstaad, canton Bern, where the couple owned two chalets. It awarded her two other pieces of real estate in Cologny, an ultra-wealthy area of Geneva, where the couple once lived together, but listed no value for either address. And it confirmed her custody of their 13-year-old daughter. The couple also has an adult daughter.

Her lawyer Marc Bonnant called it “the most expensive divorce in history” – an unheard-of amount for Switzerland and for Russian oligarchs – but said he expected an appeal within 30 days.

A separate statement by Bonnant and two other lawyers in the case called the record judgement “a complete victory” for her and said that under Swiss law she was entitled to half the fortune Rybolovlev made during their marriage. Most of his fortune was transferred to Cyprus-based trusts in 2005.

“One may reasonably presume that Mr Rybolovlev will appeal,” her lawyers said. “But the judgement shows already that, for the Geneva Tribunal of First Instance, no one – not even a Russian tycoon who put his fabulous fortune into legal structures such as trusts and offshore companies – is above the law.”

The lawyer for 47-year-old Rybolovlev, owner of French soccer club Monaco, declined to comment.

‘Fertiliser king’

The oligarch’s ex-wife had demanded $6 billion from the man known as the “fertiliser king”, whose fortune from potash mining once made him the world’s 79th richest person. He is now ranked 147th on the Forbes list of billionaires, with an estimated fortune of $8.8 billion.

The couple met as university students in Perm, Russia, and married there in 1987. Divorce proceedings began in 2008, when Forbes estimated his worth at $12.8 billion.

A Geneva court had provisionally frozen Rybolovlev’s assets in Switzerland and abroad, but it may prove difficult for his former wife to obtain the money as Switzerland has no legal aid treaty with Cyprus.

In the United States, Rybolovlev and his elder daughter used trusts to acquire some of the priciest real estate in the country, including a penthouse apartment at Central Park West in New York and a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR