A husband imprisoned for money laundering on an “eye-watering” scale has won his appeal against a ruling that part of a 2004 settlement with his ex-wife should be set aside.
In Gohil v Gohil, the former couple had reached a clean break settlement after their split, although the wife had suspected that her husband had not fully disclosed his financial assets. A few years later, however, the husband was jailed.
At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice McFarlane noted:
“… it is apparent that at some stage prior to 2007 the husband became involved in offences of fraud and money laundering on an astonishing scale. In November 2010, following a Crown Court trial, the husband was found guilty on four counts of money laundering valued at over $20 million. Two weeks later the husband pleaded guilty to a number of further charges, including fraud and six counts of money laundering, valued at approximately $37 million. He was sentenced to a total term of ten years imprisonment.”
During the criminal trial the wife claimed to have found evidence that her ex-husband had not fully disclosed his assets for the 2004 settlement after all, and she applied to have this set aside.
Her application eventually came before Mr Justice Moylan in 2012. The judge set aside part of the 2004 order, ordering the husband to pay legal costs and declaring that a new hearing should take place in June this year to re-hear the wife’s original financial claim.
The husband appealed, arguing that Mr Justice Moylan had not had the necessary jurisdiction to make his ruling, and that it had not been proven that non-disclosure had taken place.
Mr Justice McFarlane said:
“It is impossible to be exposed to the detail of this case and not feel a significant degree of sympathy for Mrs Gohil and for [Judge] Moylan. As his convictions demonstrate, certainly from 2005, Mr Gohil was an out and out rogue involved in financial criminality on an eye-watering scale. To the eyes of the wife, and it seems the judge, it was possible to discern at least the outlines of ‘a smoking gun’ indicating that the husband must have had substantial assets in and prior to 2004 which he deviously failed to disclose in the financial relief proceedings. For the judge that material was sufficient to justify setting aside paragraph 5 of the original order, so that a full hearing could take place at which, he anticipated, the detailed evidence that had been gathered into the criminal process would be presented for full forensic analysis in a manner that was simply not possible at that preliminary hearing.”
“…a decision by Moylan J to adjourn the first stage of the process to a full fact finding hearing, where whatever evidence Mrs Gohil could call would be presented and tested before the court, would have been unremarkable. Mrs Gohil would have then had her day in court at the end of which the judge would be likely to be in a position to determine with precision and clarity whether any material non-disclosure had actually been established to the requisite standard of proof. What was not legally permissible was to go, as I find the judge did, from the preliminary stage of allowing the reception of fresh evidence to making an order actually setting the 2004 order aside, without any proper fact-finding hearing and on the basis of findings of non-disclosure that were not, on the material available, open to the court.”
“For the reasons that I have given, and despite my own sympathy for the wife and for the position facing the judge, it was simply not open to the court at the hearing in 2012 to hold that there had been a material non-disclosure in 2004.”