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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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High Court judge freezes man's assets in divorce payout row

A row between a divorced couple who had Appleby Castle as their marital home is being fought out in the High Court in London.

Mother-of-three Sally Nightingale has gone to court after her ex-husband Christopher first told her she would receive more than £1.6 million from a shares sale and then cut that to less than £100.

Now a High Court judge has come down hard on Mr Nightingale, freezing his assets in the UK, including a valuable collection of rare books kept in the library of Grade 1-listed Appleby Castle, in Appleby.

Mr Justice Holman slammed the 'gaping divergence' between the offers and said he had a great deal of explaining to do.

The court heard the financial fall-out from the couple's divorce appeared to have been settled as long ago as 2009. However, Mrs Nightingale is still due a potentially very large sum from her husband's sale of shares in a company.

The judge said that, as recently as July last year, Mr Nightingale, a lawyer by profession who lives and works in Singapore, emailed his wife, saying she was due 'in excess of Euros 2 million'.

But he added: "It is thus a matter of some surprise and indeed, astonishment, that in a statement made two days ago the husband now says that the entire amount receivable by him as a result of the sale of shares in question, far from being of the order of Euros 8 million, is a mere Euros 400.

"He thus says that the amount due to his wife, far from being 'in excess of Euros 2 million', would amount to no more than Euros 100.

"It is obvious that so vast a divergence between what the husband was saying as recently as July 2013 and what he is saying now requires very particular explanation."

In December last year, Mrs Nightingale obtained an emergency asset freezing order against her ex-husband who was told to hand over 'a quantity of very obviously required documentation', giving details of the shares transaction and the destination of any proceeds.

But the judge added: "The husband has not supplied one single document in obediance to (that order)".

Mr Nightingale described it as "a complicated matter" and questioned the jurisdiction over him of the English family courts.

He said he 'believed he had the right' to withhold the documents but the judge ruled that those arguments were 'frankly nonsense' and 'completely misconceived'.

"Since that gaping divergence has not yet been adequately explained or evidenced, it is, to my mind, patent that good grounds exist for renewing or extending the freezing order," he added.

Mr Justice Holman extended the order to cover funds believed to be held by Mr Nightingale in a law firm's client account.

He added: "Also, the point has been made that the library which exists at the former matrimonial home, Appleby Castle, remains in the ownership of the husband and is apparently of quite considerable value".

Emphasising that Mr Nightingale 'must comply' with the court's orders, the judge concluded: "Patently, there needs to be some resolution of this 'complicated matter'.

"The husband needs firmly to appreciate that, in the absence of any convincing documentary material and explanations from him, there is a likelihood, to put it no higher, that the court will place significant reliance on what he himself had told the wife as recently as last July she might expect to receive".

The judge confirmed and extended the freezing order and directed a further hearing for a family judge to decide once and for all what sums are owed by Mr Nightingale to his ex-wife.

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