A millionaire banker is fighting to stop his wife divorcing him in England, claiming she plundered their joint account whilst hiding her intentions to leave him.
Catja Thum resolved to divorce financier husband, Oliver Thum, after she ‘discovered he had taken his mistress to his office party and to Rome for her 40th birthday,’ London’s Appeal Court heard.
But Mr Thum, 46, who co-owns multi-million-pound private equity fund, Elvaston Capital, claims he had no idea his wife was divorcing him until three months after she lodged her petition in London in October 2015.
During that time she had ‘appropriated’ almost £800,000 from their Swiss bank accounts, he claims, including a £30,000 gold bar the banker says was his alone.
The three judges heard that Mrs Thum began divorce proceedings after learning of an affair (Anthony Delvin/PA)
Mr Thum is now asking the Court of Appeal to halt his wife’s bid to divorce him in England in its tracks, claiming it is invalid because he was not told about it until it was too late.
But his wife is blaming the delay in serving court documents on her husband’s ‘intense and repeated’ bids to save their marriage and win her back.
The court heard the former couple were both born in Germany but moved to London in 2009, so their two sons could be educated at English schools.
They set up home in a £3m luxury four-bedroom, three-bathroom, apartment off Gloucester Road, in Kensington.
Mrs Thum, 46, who works as a homeopath as well as being a mother, filed for divorce on October 26 2015, two days after she ‘discovered’ that the banker had ‘taken his mistress to the office party and to Rome for her 40th birthday,’ her barrister, Martin Pointer QC, said.
Christopher Pocock QC, for the husband, however, says that he didn’t know his wife was divorcing him until months later, in January 2016.
The very next day after his discovery, Mr Thum launched a bid to end the crumbling marriage in a German family court.
He is now fighting to strike out his wife’s divorce petition in England, where she would be likely to receive a larger payout under famously generous UK divorce laws.
Mr Pocock told the court: ‘She went to Switzerland where she withdrew money from accounts to which they both had access and removed items from their safety deposit box.
‘It was only on that day that she, or anyone on her behalf, did anything at all in terms of service of her petition.
‘On 19 January 2016 the wife travelled to Zurich and attempted to remove £1.774m from accounts in their joint names and the husband’s name.
‘In fact she was successful only to the extent of about £760,000. She also appropriated from the parties’ safety deposit box a 1kg gold bar belonging to the husband and a memory stick containing data belonging to the husband’s company.
‘He was not informed in any way until that evening of January 19, when he lodged his petition in Germany.
‘He was completely unaware that his wife had issued a petition,’ Mr Pocock said, adding that the husband’s own petition was issued in the German court the very next day after he found out about hers.
‘The wife served her petition on him on February 27 in England. We say that was too late for the wife to cure her obvious failure. By that time the German court was seized (of the matter),’ he argued.
‘We say the wife simply waited and she waited too long,’ added the QC.
But Mr Pointer said the delay in serving Mr Thum with the English petition was down to his desperate attempts to win back his wife.
‘From October until Christmas 2015, the wife was subjected to intense and repeated pleas from the husband not to bring their marriage to an end, notwithstanding the wife’s discovery of his extra-marital affair, and the wife was prevailed upon to reconsider before effecting service.
‘Christmas intervened; she did not want to progress the suit then with the distress that would be engendered by formal service.
‘A pause of the kind that occurred here and for the reasons that we have summarised does not, properly analysed, constitute a failure on the part of the wife to take steps she was required to take to have service effected on the husband.
‘The passage of four months between the formal issue of the petition in England and its service on the husband cannot be interpreted as an abuse of process by the wife.
‘There is a potent case for a more generous time being allowed, particularly if there is evidence that the spouses are genuinely attempting to repair the marriage,’ he said.
He denied that the wife had appropriated money or property she was not entitled to or that she had engaged in ‘tactical manoevring.’
Mr Pointer urged the Appeal Court to uphold a High Court ruling by Mr Justice Mostyn in November 2016 that the wife’s petition is valid.
‘There is one central finding of fact by Mr Justice Mostyn, namely that the wife has not been guilty of unreasonable delay.
‘That is not a finding with which this court should properly interfere on appeal,’ said the barrister.
The hearing, before Lady Justice King, Lord Justice David Richards and Lord Justice Moylan, continues.