A Russian mogul’s wife led a court on a “merry dance” attempting to hide £1 million of handbags in a bitter divorce battle over the division of assets.
Dmitry Tsetkov, 42, and his wife Elsina Khayrova, 36, a former model and the daughter of a Russian MP, have been embroiled in an acrimonious divorce battle over tens of millions of pounds of assets following their split last year after more than a decade of marriage
The couple’s assets included a property empire, comprising a £22 million mansion on the Wentworth estate in Surrey, homes in London worth £18 million and properties in Dubai and Cyprus, along with millions of pounds worth of high-end cars, jewellery and art.
However, Ms Khayrova failed to include her sizeable handbag collection in evidence, which it has now emerged comprised more than 150 bags worth £943,095.
She lied during a hearing in February 2023 that she owned just 20 handbags, repeating the lie to the court again in May 2023. The judge also told of how she “downplayed the bags” and said it would be disproportionate to have them valued.
In a slating judgment handed down at the High Court, Mr Justice Peel said the case had been “infected by [Ms Khayrova’s] dishonesty from start to finish”.
He accused her of being guilty of “sustained duplicity” and of having “led the court on a merry dance about handbags” through her lies about the numbers she owned and their worth.
The couple’s marriage came to an end in September 2020 when Ms Khayrova asked her husband for a divorce. The Telegraph reported that year that Mr Tsvetkov had complained his marriage was under strain after he was placed on a Kremlin “wanted list” accused of unknown offences.
He said he was the victim of a campaign of intimidation and death threats in a row over ownership of a coal mine in Siberia, worth half a billion pounds.
Ms Khayrova is the daughter of the Russian politician Rinat Khayrov, who worked in the country’s defence ministry before he was elected to parliament in 2011 where he served until 2021.
Upon separating from her husband, Ms Khayrova almost immediately prevented Mr Tsvetkov’s access to the family bank accounts and credit cards, the court heard.
She transferred some of their Cypriot properties into her mother’s name, which the judge said he regarded as an “obvious attempt” to place assets beyond her husband’s reach.
The couple also owned a number of valuable items of jewellery, including investment grade diamonds and a Patek Phillipe watch, which were held in a Harrods Safe Deposit box to which Mr Tsvetkov held the keys
The High Court heard how Ms Khayrova persuaded Harrods staff that the keys had been lost and obtained a set for herself, failing to tell her husband she had done so and omitting the items from evidence.
Ms Khayrova also passed confidential information to her husband’s former business partner, Rustem Magdeev, during a separate legal case over a £15 million diamond bought at the Graff boutique in Cyprus.
Mr Tsvetkov, an entrepreneur who first came to the UK in 2004 and was granted a British passport and indefinite leave to remain five years later, has not been able to make “meaningful sums of money” since June 2022 as a result of his wife blocking him from the family bank accounts, the court heard.
But describing him as “clever, resourceful and well connected with extremely wealthy friends”, Mr Justice Peel told the court that Mr Tsvetkov was optimistic that he would soon be able to begin trading again, probably in art.
Failed coffee business
The court heard that Ms Khayrova did not work during their marriage and that a coffee business she tried to set up during the divorce proceedings had failed.
“There is no real indication that her next business proposition, a private members’ beauty club, is likely to be financially fruitful,” the judge added.
At the beginning of the divorce case in 2021, Mr Tsvetkov accused his wife of taking his passport after he left the family home in Knightsbridge and refusing to give it back, while she claimed he kept millions of pounds worth of paintings, jewellery and luxury cars.
Mr Justice Peel ultimately ruled that Ms Khayrova carries the “greater responsibility for this expensive litigation” in the divorce battle, and ordered her to pay half of her husband’s £1,761,488 legal bill.
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