AS THE son of a Russian oligarch, the last thing Temur Akhmedov expects is sympathy. When others his age could only dream of a toe on the property ladder, British-born Temur was given a £30 million apartment in Central London at the age of 19.
For as long as he can remember, his life has been one of luxury. Still, only the hardest hearts would be left unstirred by his current predicament.
This week Temur, 27, faces a deeply painful showdown with his mother, Tatiana Akhmedova, at the Royal Courts of Justice. It promises to be the most dramatic chapter yet in Britain’s costliest divorce case.
Believing Temur assisted his father in hiding assets worth millions, Ms Akhmedova, 52, is bringing a legal action against her first-born son. She is due to give evidence tomorrow at the start of a three-week hearing and has already sought orders freezing his assets.
Earlier this month she obtained a High Court order that allowed a nine-strong team to search Temur’s flat for evidence.
‘Imagine being sued by your own mother,’ Temur tells The Mail on Sunday in his first interview.
‘It is horrible and should never have come to this. I have done nothing wrong. My mother told me, “I gave birth to you so you should be on my side”.
‘But I said, “I’m sorry, loyalty isn’t dictated by who gave birth to you”. I didn’t seek to take sides, to pick one parent over the other. I told her I wanted to be on the side of what is right. And then I asked her why, since she gave birth to me, she is putting me through this.’
Temur says that for years he acted as peacemaker between his warring parents.
‘I tried to bring them together but it didn’t work,’ he says. His father, Farkhad Akhmedov, is a billionaire oil and gas tycoon and 17 years his ex-wife’s senior.
When reconciliation proved impossible and the marriage finally foundered, Temur hoped at least for an amicable parting and even visited his mother’s high-powered lawyer to try to head off a destructive court battle. He says: ‘I turned up unannounced and she [the lawyer] looked at me with a death stare as if to say, “What are you doing here”.
‘I told her straight, “Don’t break up my family, this is going to be bad for my family”, but it didn’t do any good.’ The legal juggernaut couldn’t be halted.
Then, four years ago, Ms Akhmedova was awarded £453 million by a High Court judge. It was Britain’s largest divorce settlement, but by no means the end of the dispute.
The litigation - and rancour - continued with subsidiary lawsuits in another five countries. In addition to half of Mr Akhmedov’s billion-pound fortune, assets at stake include a private jet, an Aston Martin, Holland & Holland shotguns and a £115 million art collection featuring paintings by Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Damien Hirst.
But the jewel in the crown for both sides is the Luna, a £350 million superyacht that used to belong to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and boasts an onboard spa, two heliports, a mini-submarine and a missile detection system.
Although Mr Akhmedov is said to have offered his wife £100 million to settle, she held firm. So far she has received £5 million and a rusting helicopter.
Temur, a commodities futures trader in the City, says when he spoke to his mother about the £100 million offer she seemed receptive, but cooled after a few days when, Temur assumes, her lawyers told her they could get a better deal. He says the money involved is ‘obscene’ and adds of his mother: ‘Does she need a million handbags?’
They last met in February when she visited him at his apartment. Again, he pleaded with her to stop the litigation but says she refused.
Now, he says, all hope of a rapprochement has evaporated. ‘No, it’s finished. How can you have a relationship with someone who wants to give you up like that?
‘I have no relationship with her any more, the divorce broke everything.’
Lawyers, of course, are always the ones to benefit from protracted divorce cases. But in this dispute, there is another party with a vested interest.
Ms Akhmedova is backed by Burford Capital, a litigation finance firm that will take a slice of her payout if it succeeds in recovering the £453 million.
‘She’s under their control,’ claims Temur, described by his mother as his father’s ‘lieutenant’.
‘I think she would have agreed to the £100 million if it wasn’t for them [Burford]. She once told me that her hands were tied because it had gone too deep.’
Burford, which became involved in the case in 2018, declined to comment last night. Sources close to the company insisted it doesn’t control any litigation it funds and said the decision to sue Temur was a matter for Ms Akhmedova and her legal advisers.
While the litigation continues, Burford has been bankrolling her luxury lifestyle, giving her nearly £15 million in 2018 to cover living expenses. Temur says be believes his mother’s team is going after him because ‘I am perceived as the weakest link’.
His apartment at One Hyde Park - Britain’s most expensive block of flats - was bought for him by his father in 2012 and he scoffs at the notion that it was simply another exercise in putting assets beyond his mother’s reach. ‘How can she think that? She even helped with the design,’ he says.
‘And it’s in my name just a few miles from the court.’ His father also bought a property for his younger son and gave both boys large sums of money.
Temur says: ‘My father was just being a good dad, looking after his children. He wanted to make sure we were settled and safe. I don’t want to sound spoilt or anything but it’s like when people give their children a couple of grand for their birthday or whatever.
‘It’s a lot of money. But in our world you give someone a million and an apartment - it’s the same idea just different amounts.
‘This is a rich family, the numbers are different. As much as it sounds crazy, this is our world. That’s just the way it is. If my dad wanted to hide money from her why would he buy me an apartment in London? It’s bananas. She [his mother] knew all about it, just as she knew about the transfer of money.’
In court his father has been accused of ‘naked determination’ to keep his fortune out of the reach of his former wife. And two years ago a judge condemned his ‘cavalier attitude’ to the English courts.
What goes to the heart of the tycoon’s stubborn refusal to comply is his belief that ‘the British courts should never have sought to interfere in a former marriage which took place in Russia, between two Russian citizens and which had long been dissolved in that country with generous provision for my ex-wife’.
But lawyers for Ms Akhmedova say it is a matter of public record that the High Court found documents relied on by her ex-husband to support his claims that the couple were actually divorced in Russia in 2000 were ‘at all material times, forged’.
Ms Akhmedova was 17 when she met her husband, then 34, and they married four years later in 1993, moving to London later that year.
The couple owned a £39 million mansion in Surrey and another £28 million home before they finally separated. Temur and his brother were educated in Surrey.
In 2012, Mr Akhmedov sold his stake in a gas company for around £1 billion. Ms Akhmedova claimed the bulk of his fortune was earned while they were married.
Her former husband maintained that he made generous provision, giving Tatiana tens of millions worth of homes in Britain and the French Riviera, as well as millions of pounds in annual support, cars and servants.
In the original 2016 divorce ruling, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said Ms Akhmedova deserved the big payout because of her ‘equal contributions to the welfare of the family’. Two years later, the judge ruled that the oligarch was in contempt of court because he had not paid.
Ms Akhmedova has attempted to force her former husband to hand over his superyacht, moored in Dubai, but a local court prevented her seizing it.
Then she accused Temur of conspiring with his father to frustrate the enforcement of the award, accusations he disputes.
But he has some serious questions to answer when he takes the witness stand next week.
In a ruling from earlier this month, Mrs Justice Knowles said she ordered the search of Temur’s apartment because he had not ‘delivered up’ electronic devices that might contain evidence relevant to the dispute.
The judge said she was ‘satisfied that there is clear evidence that Temur has in his possession incriminating documents’ and that there was ‘a real possibility’ he would destroy them if the flat had not been searched.
Lawyers and forensic experts for his mother spent ten hours searching the flat. Temur says: ‘They took away eight PlayStations belonging to my mates who were round during quarantine.
‘They also took a Peppa Pig game belonging to my four-year-old daughter and some jazz CDs.
‘Then there was an old laptop. All the stuff they recovered from it dated back to my school and university days.
‘This was an invasion of my privacy and rights. Criminals have better protection. I have nothing to hide. Nothing incriminating. And I never destroyed evidence.’
More wistfully, he adds: ‘She [his mother] could be living with us having fun and enjoying life, but she is an unhappy woman.’