Property – Husband Sentenced to Imprisonment for Fleeing the Country to Avoid Paying His Wife

Background

In the recent case of Okien & Nhan [2017] FamCA 707 (8 September 2017) a property case began late in 2016 was marked by non-disclosure by the husband where much of the asset pool was overseas.

The wife filed an urgent application on 15 August 2017 for an injunction against her husband’s disposal of proceeds of a car he was selling and $100,000 he was to receive from an investment property (“B P/L”) came before Cronin J on 17 August 2017

Wife’s Submission

The wife requested the Court to order her husband to pay her $343,262, as argued he was in contempt of court for deliberately defying court orders. The wife also sought a watch list order and indemnity costs and a warrant for the husband’s arrest.

Court Analysis

The case had been before his Honour in June 2017 after the husband in a very suspicious transaction sent $265,000 to a “Ms C” in the US. This was to repay a debt from 20 years ago which had suddenly been called up. The payment amounted to all of the assets the parties then had in liquid form. Ms C was ordered to return the money to a trust, to be held until settlement. Five months later, the money was still not returned.

At the August hearing the Court Registrar was authorised under s 106A of the Family Law Act to receive the car proceeds and the $100,000 and an injunction was made restraining the husband from disposing of those funds. While the application came on urgently it was adjourned until 8 September. On the eve of that hearing the husband’s solicitors ceased to act for the husband, informing the wife’s solicitors that their client was now living in Asia, that he had no significant assets in Australia, that he had realised his interest in B P/L, sold the car (for $50,000) and that the resulting funds were with their client.

Cronin J accepted that the total value of the couple’s assets was more than half a million dollars. Cronin J stated that there being no property within Australia was not a basis to preclude a court from making an order and that the wife could persue her enforcement options in relation to the $343,262.



The husband was not present when the original order was made, but Cronin J was satisfied that the husband was aware of the order. The husband had sent two text messages to his former wife calling her a ‘gold digger’ and that he wished her all the best finding ‘a guy who will giver her $343,262’.

Orders

A property order was made that the husband pay the wife $343,000 with costs; that the husband be imprisoned for 18 months for contempt of court and that a warrant issue for his arrest.

Cronin J commented that despite the order, the wife was not likely to receive any money. The former husband, in his mid-30s, is now believed to be living in Asia.

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