International high net worth and celebrity divorces often involve disputes over location and control of real property, art, company ownership and investment/bank accounts. The U.S. offers a very powerful tool for participants in foreign divorce proceedings to obtain bank records, documents and witness testimony from sources within the U.S., even if such evidence is unobtainable through foreign court procedures. This procedure, authorized under 28 U.S.C. §1782, is a relatively quick and efficient method for obtaining crucial information to locate assets. Examples of U.S. federal courts granting §1782 discovery include:
- Austrian Divorce: For use in divorce proceedings against Austrian billionaire Gaston Glock, in In re H.M.G., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185467 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 12, 2014), wife Helga Glock was granted §1782 discovery against various U.S. subsidiaries of the Austrian arms manufacturer, Glock.
- Brazilian Divorce: In Lopes v. Lopes, 180 F. App’x 874 (11th Cir. 2006), §1782 discovery was granted for financial and bank account information held by Miami area banks.
- Cayman Divorce: In re Gushlak, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91912 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2011) involved Cayman divorce proceedings in which wife Debbie Gushlak was seeking discovery of her husband Myron Gushlak’s hidden assets. The court granted §1782 discovery from his girlfriend Yelena Furman and attorney David Lubin, who held $6 million in an escrow account received from Mr. Gushlak.
- French Divorce: In London v. Does, 279 F. App’x 513 (9th Cir. 2008), wife Jennifer sought a fault-based divorce under French law from husband Richard for adultery. In support of efforts to gather evidence, Jennifer was granted §1782 discovery of Richard’s email accounts at Yahoo requiring production of: (1) documents identifying the names, addresses, and telephone numbers provided by the users of five email accounts; (2) documents describing the dates on which five email accounts were created; (3) documents describing the Internet protocol address (IP) from which five email accounts were created; (4) documents identifying Internet groups in which account users participated; and (5) documents showing online blog postings.
- Ecuadoran Divorce: In In re Maria Fernanda Rigail Pons, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66824 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 13, 2020), §1782 discovery was permitted from Miami based registered corporate agents regarding assets the husband allegedly concealed and failed to disclose to the Ecuadoran Family Court.
- English Divorce: Tatiana Akhmedova was awarded approximately $466 million and legal and beneficial ownership of the 115 meter yacht M/Y Luna, in English divorce proceedings against Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov. In pursuit of records regarding Akhmedov’s hiding and transferring assets, wife Tatiana, in In re Application of Tatiana Akhmedova, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 202391 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 30, 2020), was granted §1782 discovery against Rackspace, a Texas based web hosting company, that had electronic backups of the M/Y Luna’s email and cloud files.
- Hong Kong Divorce: InIn re Mak, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75844 (N.D. Cal. May 31, 2012), husband Mak Shun Ming Hotung sought §1782 discovery against third party George Grover, who had submitted an affidavit in a divorce proceeding before the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Court, in which he stated Mak owned a collection of automobiles worth $50 million. Mak wanted to contest this assertion in the Hong Kong proceeding and was permitted §1782 discovery against Mr. Grover to do so.
- Japanese Divorce: In re Reiko Aso, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93175 (S.D.N.Y. June. 3, 2019) involved §1782 discovery to assist a woman involved in a divorce in Japan to recover assets that she believed her ex-husband had hidden while working in New York at AllianceBernstein. During the divorce proceeding in Japan, the husband, Takeo, claimed to have provided the court with complete financial records, but his wife Reiko suspected that he moved marital assets to undisclosed accounts in the U.S. For use in the Tokyo divorce proceedings, Reiko was granted §1782 discovery for document productions from AllianceBernstein, Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Securities and others to make her case.
- Russian Divorce: In re Application of Potanina, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199075 (D. Mont. April 16, 2014) involved Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin’s divorce. The company Potanin founded, Interros, had a significant stake in Norilsk Nickel, which had formerly owned Stillwater Mining Company, a Montana company. The court granted Natalia Potanina’s application for §1782 discovery from Stillwater for information it had regarding any assets owned by Potanin, Interros, or Norilsk Nickel.
- Russian Divorce: In re Sergeeva, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200180 (N.D. Ga. Nov. 22, 2013) wife Anna Sergeeva was seeking in Russian divorce proceedings, her share of property that husband, Mikhail Leopoldovich Dubin, allegedly transferred out of the marital estate and into various off-shore companies being held beneficially for Dubin, for which Trident Corporate Services, Inc. was the registered agent. The court granted §1782 discovery for the production of documents and witness depositions.
What Information Can Be Obtained?
Documents and witness testimony that can be obtained include:
- Deposition testimony of individuals, employees and corporate officers
- International Wire Transaction Records (U.S. Dollar wires typically transit the U.S.)
- Emails, Correspondence, Phone and Travel Records
- Banking, Credit Card and Business Transaction Records
- Corporate Documents including Shareholder and Board Meeting Records
- Accounting, Employment and Intellectual Property Records
- Property and Real Estate Transaction Records
- Attorney Records (that are not subject to attorney-client privilege)
- Medical and Educational Records
Thomas C. Sullivan is an attorney in the Philadelphia office of Marks & Sokolov LLC. Mr. Sullivan represents Western, Russian and Ukrainian clients in complex commercial disputes including civil RICO, securities fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Convention on the International Sale of Goods and ICC Arbitration matters. He has litigated numerous Section 1782 discovery matters throughout the United States and was recently published in Obtaining U.S. Discovery For Use In Non-U.S. Tribunals Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 1782 (Chapter 7), Juris Publishing, LLC, 2020.
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