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Trading  | June 7, 2018

Caught in the middle of one of England’s highest profile divorce cases, that between Russian billionaire oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov and Tatiana Akhmedov, is a $500 million dollar yacht, the Luna. The yacht, purchased by Farkhad from fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, was bought in 2014 and houses a crew of 50, a missile detection system, an anti-drone system, bulletproof windows and bombproof doors (almost as if Russian oligarchs fear for their lives).

Unfortunately, as the NY Times noted this week, neither the missile defense system not bombproof doors were enough to keep the yacht out one the messiest divorce proceedings to have been argued in England’s high court. Farkhad was ordered in December of 2016 to pay $646 million to his ex wife as a condition of their divorce, which he simply refused to do and tried to appeal on the grounds that the couple had already been divorced in Russia years prior.

Immediately after, a British judge noted that Farkhad embarked on a “campaign to hide his assets”, according to the NY Times:

None of these features, however, have shielded Mr. Akhmedov from the British justice system, despite the exhaustive efforts of his legal and accounting team. Before arriving in the Middle East, the vessel had been on an epic journey, though one not measured in nautical miles.

As the nine-figure settlement was gaveled into divorce court history, Mr. Akhmedov began what the judge called a “campaign” to hide his assets “in a web of offshore companies.” Nothing demonstrates the breadth and ingenuity of that web like the Luna. Starting in November 2016, the yacht went on a whirlwind voyage, all of it on paper, in a feat of asset protection and financial engineering so elaborate that the judge diagramed it in an April ruling.

By the way, Farkhad for those asking, became a billionaire after the sale of his stake in a Siberian energy company, Northgas.

Meanwhile, his wife claims that the money from the divorce is a “necessity” and that she’s living off of a “lump sum provided to her” by a litigation finance firm that will take a cut of any award she receives as a result of the divorce.

The two met in 1989 in Moscow when Tatiana was just 17 years old, half Farkhad’s age at the time. They married in 1993 before moving to London. The two have lived together since, despite a couple of close calls with divorce in recent years:

The two married in 1993 and moved to London. He started off in the fur business, selling sable skins on the London Commodity Exchange. He later pivoted to the natural gas sector and, in 2012, sold his 49 percent stake in Northgas for a reported $1.4 billion.

Over the years, he acquired a summer house in the south of France, two helicopters, vintage cars, fine art — by Rothko, Warhol and others — and a $26 million home in an upscale county outside London.

“We went from flying Aeroflot to British Airways to chartered flights,” said Ms. Akhmedova. Later, they flew on their own $50 million private jet.

During the years that Mr. Akhmedov amassed his wealth, the couple regularly toggled between hostilities and opulent cease-fires. She said she filed for divorce a second time in 2013 — she had rescinded the first petition a decade earlier — when one of her ex-husband’s paramours gave birth to a child.

They nonetheless tried another détente. That same year, Mr. Akhmedov bought more than $500,000 worth of jewelry for his wife, paid expenses for holidays and gave her access to his helicopters and credit cards, according to the judge overseeing the divorce.

But there are no punches being pulled in the divorce. Farkhad’s lawyers paint a picture of Tatiana as “an opportunist” and continue to argue that a divorce was already adjudicated:

In 2003, Mr. Akhmedov had produced documents that purported to show that the couple had gotten a divorce from a Moscow court three years earlier. In his version of events, as explained by his spokesman, the marriage lasted a mere seven and a half years and was dissolved on the grounds of Ms. Akhmedova’s adultery. The subsequent time together — from 2000 to 2014 — the gifts and vacations? That was for the sake of the couple’s sons.

“To give them, as the children of divorced parents, the best possible experience of family life, my client also accompanied his ex-wife and children on occasional ‘family’ holidays,” said the spokesman, Ian Monk, in an email.

This narrative portrays Ms. Akhmedova as an opportunist, who pounced when her ex-husband had his billion-dollar payday, in 2012.

“Within a few days of the wealth being realized by my client’s sale of Northgas, Tatiana made her first approach for an English divorce,” Mr. Monk wrote. “My client says that is a second divorce.”

The divorce is yet another ongoing story in the narrative of how oligarchs use England as a place to keep their money and deal with administrative proceedings.

Several weeks ago, we wrote an article about how the super-rich were using England’s commercial courts at the Royal Courts of London to arbitrate their “super rich“ problems. The London courts are a popular destination for the mega rich to battle things out because they offer strict privacy that ensures that litigants don’t have to share their business with the world when they don’t want to. For now, however, the legal route is not working to Farkhad’s advantage.

He doesn’t exactly seem ready to give up the fight, however. The NY Times article closed by stating that “He would rather see the Luna rot in the Dubai heat…than see it handed over to Tatiana.”

Ain’t love grand?

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