Russian oligarch Berezovsky divorced in London: court

23rd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and his second wife have divorced in London in what experts speculated could be the biggest settlement in British legal history, the high court said Friday.

Divorce documents gave the reason for the split as the billionaire's "unreasonable behaviour", and media reports suggest the settlement could now reach anything up to 100 million pounds -- double the previous record here.

"Mr. Berezovsky was granted a decree nisi at the family division of the High Court yesterday (Thursday)," a spokeswoman for the court confirmed.

A decree nisi is the first stage in a divorce, and after six weeks the couple will be able to formally conclude their separation.

The oligarch and his second wife Galina were married in 1991 but for the last 15 years they have lived apart -- she with their two teenage children in London, and he with his girlfriend of 15 years, Yelena Gorbunova, and their two children in Surrey, outside the capital.

The couple met in 1981 when Berezovsky, now 64, was a professor of mathematics in Moscow earning about 60 pounds (93 dollars, 72 euros) a month.

He later set himself up in business as a car dealer, and then made his fortune in the sell-off of state-run assets in the 1990s following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

He married Galina, now 51, in 1991 after divorcing his first wife, Nina, with whom he has two further children.

Frank Arndt, a lawyer at the firm Stowe Family Law, which specialises in expensive divorces, said: "The Berezovskys were married for 18 years, have two teenage children and, although estimates of the couple's fortune vary, it is indeed likely that any settlement eventually awarded to Mrs. Berezovsky will dwarf the 48-million-pound (record) awarded to Beverley Charman in 2008.

"However, the biggest challenge facing Mrs. Berezovsky might not be the size of the eventual settlement, but how the payment of that settlement can be enforced. This is a question that has been exercising family judges of late, and much can depend upon the locations in which the couple's assets are held."

Berezovsky fell out with the Russian administration of Vladimir Putin and was granted political asylum in Britain in 2003.

© 2010 AFP

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