A former conservation charity director has failed in a bid to claim a share of the organisation’s funding in her divorce settlement.
Li Quan was already a keen conservationist dedicated to the preservation of tigers in her native China when she met Briton Stuart Bray, a wealthy former banking executive. He also became involved in the cause, dedicating time, effort and money to the conservation project.
The pair began living together from 1997, eventually marrying in 2001. The year before, Li had established the charity Save China’s Tigers in the UK, which quickly gained the support of the Chinese government.
At the High Court this week, Mr Justice Coleridge explained:
“Between that time and July 2012 the husband and wife worked tirelessly and more or less cooperatively on this patently bold, imaginative, charitable and laudable venture.”
However, the couple’s marriage gradually deteriorated, “tragically for all involved” in the words of the judge, with disagreements also arising over the charity’s work and future direction.
Eventually Li Quan was removed from her role as a director of the charity, and shortly afterwards she filed for divorce.
During the subsequent proceedings, she argued that the charity was not solely dedicated to the conservation of tigers in China, but was also a post-nuptial settlement, established to “provide financial benefit and support for the husband and wife personally over the long term”, and therefore subject to the same asset sharing principles as other marital property.
The judge noted:
“That assertion has been hotly disputed by the husband since it first surfaced.”
Her allegations centred on a trust established on Mauritius called the Chinese Tigers South Africa Trust (CTSAT).
Mr Bray denied her claims that charity funds were used to finance a lavish lifestyle and Mr Justice Coleridge ruled in his favour, saying there was “no evidence of past, present or future benefit to the parties from CTSAT”, and that he was “fully satisfied” the husband had not received payments from the trust and that there was “no existing intention to do so.”
A vague and unspecified intention for the parties to a trust to benefit from it in the future, depending on circumstances, was, the judge explained, “not enough to turn a non nuptial settlement into a [post nuptial settlement] and so would not be enough in these circumstances.”
The judge added:
“…I am driven to find, overall, that [the wife] is an unreliable witness upon whom the court cannot rely.”
A spokesman for Save China’s Tigers welcomed the ruling, saying the charity’s assets were now “safe from attack”, according to the Telegraph.
Following the judgement, the divorcing wife made a so-called Barrell application, inviting the court to make use of its discretion and rewrite the judgement. The husband and other involved parties responded to this application.
Barrell applications are named after a 1972 case, and refer to the circumstances in which courts may change judgements before they are made into binding legal orders. The wife’s application and the responses of the other parties added up to an additional 99 pages submitted to the courts following the judgement.
Mr Justice Coleridge was, however, unimpressed and declined to change his ruling. He acknowledged the wife’s disappointment at his judgement but declared that her Barrell application was “quite simply wrong and not the purpose of that process”.
Read the full judgement here.
Photo via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence