UK court awards Singapore woman $27m in divorce settlement

A Singaporean woman who led a life of luxury with her German husband, but subsequently suffered serious brain damage, has been awarded some £15 million (S$27 million) by a London court, following the couple's divorce earlier in the year.

The 64-year-old woman won this financial relief after her husband stopped showing up for court proceedings - including a hearing last month.

Justice Stephen Cobb explained his "unusual" move of making the final order in the husband's absence, saying there was nothing to be gained by prolonging the proceedings - and the delay might even harm the wife's interests if he sought to place his assets beyond her reach. The couple were not identified in the grounds of decision, released recently.

Even though the husband, 68, was not transparent in his disclosure, the court estimated the couple's assets as being worth around £40 million. Most of the husband's wealth came from a substantial 1997 inheritance and his own, long-established business. A company listed in the British Virgin Islands - in which he held an 80 per cent share - held many of his investments.

The couple also jointly owned nine properties in Singapore worth some £9.5 million.

They got married in 2006, and both had children from previous marriages which ended in divorce. The woman had a son and a daughter from her first marriage, while the man had a son.

The couple "enjoyed an extraordinarily luxurious lifestyle" living in a "series of suites in deluxe hotels around the world", noted the judge.

They had meant to settle down in Singapore, but spent a lot of time in Monaco and Switzerland, noted the wife, who said their "days consisted of socialising, wining and dining, beauty treatments and luxury shopping. We had staff to assist us". She had a 10-carat diamond ring worth £500,000, while he had a a valuable watch collection, she claimed.

Their life took a sudden twist in 2013, when they were both seriously assaulted. Computed tomography scans on the woman's skull revealed a large tumour, unconnected with the assault.

The marriage went downhill from there, and they separated in 2014. As the wife's condition worsened, the husband seemed to cut back on his financial support to her - though he claimed to be "immensely distressed" by the suggestion that he had "washed his hands" of his responsibilities. Still, she had to move into rented accommodation in the north-east of England.

Meanwhile, the judge noted that the woman suffered from headaches, double vision, impaired memory and depression - and will need specialised medical care.

While the marriage itself was short, the judge decided on the award based on the woman's medical condition. Without it, he said, the wife would have required a sum of around £5.4 million. The medical condition almost tripled the sum.

"I have borne in mind the opulent living standard of the parties during the marriage and the financial resources of the parties," he added.

The judge said he found it reasonable that the woman should live in England, close to her son, but be able to travel to Monaco, where she spent most of her first marriage, and to Singapore, where she had her extended family.

To ensure that the woman gets her due - £15.25 million - the judge awarded her eight Singapore properties worth £7.64 million, and she was allowed to keep her jewellery and cash in her bank account as well as two London properties worth £1.85 million. She would also get a three-bedroom apartment in Singapore to serve as her home, worth £1.86 million, and a cash payout of some £3.5 million from the husband to make up the total sum awarded.

The judge also ordered a freeze on the relevant portion of her husband's assets.

"Given the husband's lack of cooperation in the process over the last 10 months, the wife is entitled to be protected from the husband's efforts, and prospective efforts... to defeat her claim for financial relief," said Justice Cobb.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'UK court awards Singapore woman $27m in divorce settlement'. Print Edition | Subscribe