Belfast Telegraph

Libyan man hid houses from wife in divorce row

BY ALAN ERWIN

A Libyan man deliberately concealed two houses and a flat from his ex-wife during their divorce process, the High Court has ruled.

He has now been ordered to pay her £155,000 after failing to establish that a judge sitting in Belfast has no jurisdiction over property in the north African state.

Details of the case were disclosed despite the man, referred to only as E, seeking a complete ban on publication.

He and his ex-wife, identified as D, moved to Northern Ireland in 1978, a year after they were married in Libya.

Following their separation in 2006 they obtained an Islamic divorce, which was then recognised by the High Court in 2010.

With all matrimonial property to be split on a 50:50 basis, proceedings were brought over the division of their assets. These included the matrimonial home in Northern Ireland, a flat in Dublin, pension funds and £10,000 worth of shares in E's name.

However, D claimed her ex-husband had failed to disclose the existence of three properties in Libya: a flat in Tripoli and houses in Zawia and Tajoura.

He denied the properties belonged to him and challenged her application.

He claimed the Libyan marriage contract only entitled the wife to 1,000 Libyan dinars (£480) in the event of a divorce. He also contended that even if found to have owned the flat and houses, a court in Northern Ireland has no jurisdiction over Libyan property.

But following a 10-day hearing involving evidence from 13 witnesses, seven of whom testified over a Skype link with Libya, his claims were rejected.

In a ruling only just published, Master Bell said: "The mere fact that property exists outside the jurisdiction does not mean that the court will ignore it."

The husband had also argued that no details of the case should be disclosed. But with the parties granted anonymity, it was held that the principles of open justice warranted publication.

After describing both as having given "inconsistent" evidence, Master Bell said the husband had "deliberately concealed his interest in the three Libyan properties".

With their value estimated at £310,000, an order was made for E to pay his ex-wife a half share.

A similar division was made on all of the Irish property.

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