Ashish Thakkar, 35, has been referred to as “Africa’s youngest billionaire”, and is internationally known as a successful business tycoon. So in their divorce proceedings, his 32-year-old estranged wife, Meera Manek, naturally decided that she wanted a piece of the family pie. Thakkar’s response to her was that he isn’t a billionaire at all, but is worth less than £500,000. Manek then accused him of lying and hiding assets.

The scale here is of course much larger than those in the average divorce, but it is not unusual for one party to think there are vast assets and the other to say there are only moderate assets.

Some basic reasons for such differing perspectives are:

  1. One party knows much more about the family’s income and business dealings than the other.
  1. The spending patterns and lifestyle of the family during the marriage indicated that there was ample assets and/or income and this circumstance has changed.
  1. The assets exist, but ownership has been structured such that the assets do not qualify as “family assets” for the purpose of division upon divorce.
  1. One party may actually be hiding assets and/or income!

These divorce scenarios can be very costly. On the one side, diligent sleuthing is required to try to locate hidden assets, which may require numerous applications to court for document production orders and forensic accounting to trace the movement of assets. On the other hand, it is difficult to disprove an allegation of hidden wealth, especially where there has been a luxurious lifestyle.  Often assets are tied up in a complicated business and/or trust structures. If the entities cross jurisdictions, the challenge is compounded.

According to The Telegraph, the legal bills in the Thakker/Manek divorce “could reach £1 million.”  This could be a huge problem if Thakker is actually only worth £500,000. However, if he is worth a hidden billion, it will be money well-spent for Manek.