Billionaire CEO Denies That Wedding Ceremony Ever Took Place
One of the biggest divorce cases ever to be heard by the UK divorce courts will turn on whether the parties were ever really married.
The divorce case between a real estate investment magnate and his so-called wife of 14 years, has been thrown into confusion by his claim that the two were never formally married.
Asif Aziz i divroce
s the founder and CEO of Criterion Capital Ltd, a London based real estate investment company that turns over in excess of £4 million per year. His wife, if that is what she is, has sought a “fair share” of his wealth, which is estimated at £1.1 billion in one of the most high value cases UK divorce lawyers have ever encountered.
Till now, the proceedings have taken place behind closed doors, but any dispute over the validity of a marriage is required under UK law to be held in public.
Two weddings but no marriage?
Bizarrely, the pair actually held two wedding ceremonies, five years apart, but Mr Aziz affirms that neither of these constituted a formal wedding.
The first was a Muslim ceremony known as a nikah, which took place in Wimbledon in 1997. Mrs Aziz admits that at the time of the ceremony she had not yet divorced her first husband, and that the ceremony took place at the insistence of Mr Aziz and his family because she was already carrying his child.
Five years later, the pair travelled to Malawi and had another wedding ceremony, accompanied by a “lavish feast” at the home of Mr Aziz’s uncle.
Mr Aziz contends that no formal ceremony took place in Malawi and the whole exercise was to obtain what he calls a “certificate of convenience” to allow them to obtain a passport for a child they had informally adopted.
Mr Aziz is represented by Richard Harrison of Devereux Chambers. He told journalists that the parties have never been married as a matter of English law and therefore that there is no marriage to be dissolved.
An independent divorce lawyer who is not involved in the case gave his view on the implications for Mrs Aziz. He felt that even if the argument succeeds, and it is established that they were never formally married, she will still be entitled to something.
After all, she is the mother of his four children and has invested the past 14 years into their lives together. However, the amount will certainly be nowhere close to the 50/50 that is usually stipulated in this kind of high-profile big money divorce case.
A fair share
Mrs Aziz argues that whichever way the court rules, Mr Aziz presented to her and to the world that they were married and she therefore deserves a fair share of his wealth.
There is still a degree of uncertainty over what that wealth is, however. Mr Aziz has claimed that he has no assets and the divorce proceeding alone represent accumulated debts of some £600,000.
The latest financial statements for his company do not make happy reading. Despite turnover increasing by half a million to £4.2 million last year, the company reported a loss of £100,000.
The case continues.