Divorce — Distribution of matrimonial assets
A Hong Kong-based couple ended their marriage after 17 years. Following the break-up, the wife (“W”) returned to Sweden to live with the only child of the marriage and filed a divorce petition two years later. There were no assets in Hong Kong to speak of save for the Finnish husband’s (“H”) company (“C”) and C’s bank account.
The Court held previously that H had always been and remained the beneficial owner of C and that the current value of H’s shareholding in C formed part of the asset pool for distribution between the parties.
At the time of the trial, neither party resided in Hong Kong since H had moved to Taiwan purportedly for his work, travelling to Hong Kong occasionally. W had flown back for the trial. On the eve of the trial, H wrote to the Court with a medical note from a Hong Kong doctor stating that due to heart and blood pressure problems, he would not be able to attend.
Held, making ancillary relief orders and ruling that, inter alia:
The Court would proceed with the trial in the absence of H. There had been a history of H being tardy and difficult about disclosure of documents plus in the interest of justice, the Court should press on with matters. H’s medical condition was not acutely serious; if he had turned up, the Court would have taken frequent breaks.
Any assets held by C were held on trust for H who was the beneficial owner of all of its shares. Following Prest v Petrodel Resources Ltd  3 WLR 1, the Court was satisfied that C’s assets were amenable to any order that it made against H in respect of his beneficial ownership of its assets, the company being the legal owner of those assets as his trustee. Still, it was not open to the Court to say however, that C should have concurrent liability with H for the lump sum payment which the Court awarded to W. This was H’s personal liability.