The ex-wife of Russia’s richest man Vladimir Potanin is looking to take half of his $US15 billion (£9.8 billion) fortune amid claims that he is hiding his wealth in offshore bank accounts.
Natalia Potanina was married to Potanin for 30 years and they have three children together. They divorced in 2014.
Potanin offered her a £32 million ($US49 million) settlement last year, as well as a portfolio of properties in Moscow, London and New York, and a monthly allowance of $US250,000 (£163,496).
But Potanina claims she’s owed a lot more. Under Russian law, wealth acquired during marriage is split equally. Potanina bases her claim on this fact and filed a petition at Moscow’s Presnensky District Court last year.
The petition includes a claim for 50% of his shares in the world’s biggest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel, which has a market value of $US30 billion (£19.6 billion). Potanin owns 30% of the nickel giant through his investment company Interros International.
“I feel offended after living together for 30 years,” she said to CNN this week. “I loved him so much, it was a big personal drama to me. I want to give my shares to the state. I want to avoid corporate conflicts. I want such a big strategic object to be under the state control.”
The case has now reached US courts. Potanina told CNN that she was “forced” to involve the overseas courts in her divorce claim, after she dragged a couple of US citizens into the case to give evidence over how much money her former husband is allegedly hiding away.
She told CNN: “Vladimir always had all his companies offshore and kept his money away from Russia. It was a safeguard for his business.”
The two New York executives have not been publicly named. Potanina’s court hearing starts on July 1 in Russia.
Before his divorce Potanin pledged to give at least half of his wealth to charity and signed up to The Giving Pledge campaign founded by Warren Buffett, and Bill and Melinda Gates.
“I also see it as a way to protect my children from the burden of extreme wealth, which may deprive them of any motivation to achieve anything in life on their own,” Potanin said in 2013.
Potanin, whose wealth stems from his nickel company holding, is famous for financially backing Russia’s bid to host the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and invested heavily in the development of the Olympic village. In October he spent $US95,000 for four pounds of white truffle.
According to the Moscow Times and other websites, he allegedly remarried another woman called “Ekaterina” in 2014, although this was never officially confirmed.
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