Marcel Kooter, 57, outside the High Court in London today, where he sued his ex-girlfriend
A lovestruck businessman who gave £180,000 to a married woman 20 years his junior after meeting her on Tinder has today won a court fight to make her pay it back.
‘Naive’ London-based oil industry consultant Marcel Kooter, 57, said he was ‘blinded by attraction’ when he agreed to transfer £182,000 to Manuela Radeva after meeting her online in February 2017.
Mr Kooter and Ms Radeva had a nine-month long relationship, and she moved into his apartment in Woolwich soon after they met.
On her Tinder profile, Bulgarian Ms Radeva, 37, claimed to be an investment banker working for Citibank who was single and looking for love, a court heard today.
But Mr Kooter told the High Court in London Ms Radeva had lied about her profession and got married to another man just weeks before they met.
When their relationship broke down, Mr Kooter sued her, claiming he had only given her the £182,000 to invest for him, because he thought she was a high level professional investment expert.
He also demanded another 36,000 euros he said he lent her.
Ms Radeva admitted she was married, but claimed she was amicably separated from her husband and ‘regarded herself as single’.
She said Mr Kooter gave her the bulk of the money to support their ‘expensive, luxurious lifestyle’ together.
Ms Radeva claimed the payments were part-and-parcel of their lavish ‘domestic expenses as a couple’
The court heard the couple enjoyed a ‘lavish lifestyle’ together, enjoying skiing holidays and stays in expensive hotels.
Mr Kooter spent thousands on gifts, including designer luggage and a Chanel handbag and purse for his new lover, as well as paying for their ‘hotel and bar expenses’, the court heard.
Michael Collard, defending Ms Radeva, claimed the payments were part-and-parcel of their lavish ‘domestic expenses as a couple’.
He told the court: ‘This was a man on a very high income in what was clearly a serious relationship. They were living together.
Manuela Radeva, pictured outside court today, has been ordered to pay Mr Kooter back more than £180,000
‘There is a factual dispute over what these moneys were transferred for during a personal relationship.
‘This was a relationship with lots of kisses. It was not a professional relationship between the two of them.
‘Whether the money was paid is not the important point – the question is what was it for? They were clearly living an expensive luxurious lifestyle and there was lots of money being spent.
‘Mr Kooter is now suspicious about everything.’
Of the 36,000 euros, which Mr Kooter says was a loan, he added: ‘It’s the sort of payment a wealthy boyfriend could make to his girlfriend…There is no evidence that he would have expected the money back.
‘It seems clear that the only reason he now wants it back is because the relationship failed and now he is suspicious…Ms Radeva has explained that his suspicions are unfounded.’
Neil Vickery, representing Mr Kooter, said: ‘It’s apparent Mr Kooter was very attracted to Ms Radeva and wished to have a relationship with her.
‘But it is quite clear that the money he was paying her was an investment. She described herself as a capital investment manager on Tinder and in emails.’
Ms Radeva admitted £182,000 was transferred to her during the relationship, but said some of it was spent on bitcoin mining machines for Mr Kooter, while the rest funded ‘their domestic expenses as a couple.’
But the judge said this left a missing £82,000 she had been handed by her then boyfriend, for which ‘no explanation was forthcoming.’
She claimed not to have led Mr Kooter to believe she was an investment manager, pointing out that trading was merely her ‘hobby in the evening’.
But a screenshot of her Tinder profile from February 2017 ‘stated that she was employed by Citibank.’
She also signed off emails ‘Manuela Radeva, Capital Investment Manager’, the judge said.
There were numerous emails detailing ‘the process of making arrangements for Mr Kooter to make investments with Ms Radeva,’ he added.
At one point in the emails, Mr Kooter expressed nervousness at what he was doing, saying: ‘Just putting a large amount of money into your bank account seems a bit reckless.’
Ms Radeva replied: ‘Don’t worry about this – you can trust me completely.’
Ms Radeva made a counterclaim against her ex for just under £10,000 for possessions she says she left in his apartment and never got back
The judge said: ‘Ms Radeva says they were two individuals who were in a very intense personal relationship who had been discussing investments but who had not entered into a formal investment agreement.
‘This was a case of a wealthy boyfriend, living a lavish lifestyle and giving his girlfriend money to spend on their lifestyle, she says.
‘Mr Kooter accepts that he spent money on them as a couple and that they lived a luxurious lifestyle.
‘But in my judgment, there is a great deal of contemporaneous evidence to show Mr Kooter was giving Ms Radeva substantial sums of money so she could invest on his behalf, she having led him to believe she was an expert investor working in the finance industry.
Mr Kooter works as a consultant in the oil and gas industry
‘In my judgment, it is highly implausible that he was giving her this money for any other reason than that she should invest it for him.
‘It might be thought to be strange that an experienced businessman would advance these sums to somebody he had recently met without a written agreement.
‘He admits he was naive and says he was blinded by attraction.
‘But he has established that there are grounds to believe that Ms Radeva has no real prospect of success in her defence to this aspect of his claim.’
He granted summary judgment in the sum of £182,050 against Ms Radeva, plus £3,641 interest, and ordered her to pay just over £20,000 legal costs.
But he refused to award Mr Kooter the 36,000 euro alleged ‘loan’ he is claiming back.
A full trial would have to decide that issue, the judge said, along with Ms Radeva’s counterclaim against her ex for just under £10,000 for possessions she says she left in his apartment and never got back.
Outside court after the hearing, Mr Kooter said he has now moved out of the apartment in Woolwich they shared and now has a home in Bermondsey.
He said: ‘There are too many negative memories there.’