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A Russian tycoon has accused his wife of taking his passports while she claims he has kept millions of pounds worth of paintings, jewellery and luxury cars in the opening salvo of a bitter divorce battle.
Dmitry Tsvetkov and his wife Elsina Khayrova, a model and the daughter of a Russian MP, split up last year, sparking a divorce case over the division of tens of millions of pounds of assets, including a property empire, comprising a £22m mansion on the Wentworth estate in Surrey, five more homes in London worth £18m, and apartments and houses in Dubai and Cyprus.
The disputed art collection worth £10m includes paintings by Renoir, Pisarro, Chagall and Degas while the couple are also disputing ownership of a rare £250,000 Ferrari and two Bentleys.
Mr Tsvetkov, 40, who holds British as well as Russian citizenship, said on Wednesday: “I am very much disappointed that 11 years of happy marriage have ended up in various court proceedings.”
Last year The Telegraph reported how Mr Tsvetkov had complained his marriage was under strain after he was placed on a Kremlin ‘wanted list’, accused of unknown offences.
Mr Tsvetkov 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.
Their divorce - the couple have two young children - is likely to drag on with complications over ownership of their various assets. Their family home in Wentworth was bought in Ms Khayrova’s name but Mr Tsvetkov will argue it was purchased with his money.
Ms Khayrova, 33, is the daughter of the Russian politician Rinat Khayrov, a member of President Putin's party who sits in the Dumas.
In the High Court, the estranged couple both tried to sue each other for the "delivery up of property" they insist is theirs.
Mr Tsvetkov has remained in the mansion at Wentworth, which is reckoned to be one of the finest houses on the estate, surrounded by an enviable art collection.
In the court battle, Mr Tsvetkov's lawyer Ashley Cukier accused Ms Khayrova of taking her husband's passport after he left the family home in Knightsbridge and refusing to give him it back.
Paul Mitchell QC, for Ms Khayrova, denied she has possession of her husband's passport and instead asked for "delivery up" of millions of pounds worth of the valuable possessions the couple enjoyed, including cars, jewellery, including pieces by Cartier, and works of art.
He told Judge Nigel Lickley QC that Ms Khayrova has invoices proving she paid for the items and that they belong to her alone. Her husband denies that is the case.
Judge Lickley, delivering his ruling after a short High Court hearing, dismissed both the husband and the wife's applications for ‘delivery up’ of the contested property, telling them they must sort their differences out in the divorce courts.
"The parties are married, but in the process of divorcing," he said. "The husband seeks recovery of passports in his name that he says were delivered to the family home after he left and were retained by Ms Khayrova and he needs his passports back.
"Ms Khayrova says that she doesn't have the passports and an issue arises as to where the passports are.
"Ms Khayrova cross-applies for delivery up of assets which total many millions of pounds, including expensive Cartier jewellery, works of art by famous painters and expensive motor cars.
"The purchase documents for the property are in her name and she is entitled to at least assert that the property is hers.”
The judge added: "I am told by counsel for the husband that it is not as simple as that.
“There are divorce proceedings that will decide how the family property is distributed.”
The judge went on to dismiss both the husband and the wife's applications. He said: "This is not the appropriate forum to resolve the matters here today.”
Their fight will now be carried on in the divorce courts at a later date.