HMRC loses Charman £48m divorce papers case
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has failed in a bid to access documents submitted during what was thought to be Britain's biggest divorce payout.
HMRC asked to see papers used in the £48m split of Kent couple John and Beverley Charman as part of a separate tax assessment involving Mr Charman.
Mr Justice Coleridge, at the High Court, said such evidence was generally not disclosable to third parties.
He said there was nothing rare or exceptional about the Charmans' case.Moved to Bermuda
The judge, who made the divorce settlement in 2006 and awarded £48m to Mrs Charman, said he took the husband's potential tax liabilities into account when he determined the wife's claim.
He also said the extent of his income and capital tax liabilities depended significantly on the date when Mr Charman gave up UK residence and moved to Bermuda.
HMRC believes Mr Charman owes £11.5m in unpaid tax for the years 2001 to 2008 - a liability disputed by the 59-year-old insurance magnate.
End Quote Mr Justice Coleridge
It was in a very real sense a 'big money case'”
The court heard HMRC had asked both Mr and Mrs Charman to produce the papers and while Mrs Charman had not objected, Mr Charman had refused to do so.'Still highest award'
But the judge said the general rule was documents were not disclosable and the fact that evidence may be relevant or useful was "not by itself a good enough reason to undermine the rule".
Referring to the divorce, the judge said: "It was in a very real sense a 'big money case'."
He said he made an award to the wife worth more than £40m in property and cash and added: "I think that award still stands as the highest award made in a post divorce contested hearing."
At the time, Mr Charman described the award as "grotesque and unfair." He went on to lose an appeal in the following year.
The Charmans, who were teenage sweethearts, married in 1976, when neither had significant resources.
Mr Charman built up his wealth in the City of London.
The Sevenoaks couple, who had two children, separated in 2003 and divorced in 2005.