Ex-Banker turned Bishop found guilty of hiding funds overseas

Published: 29th April 2015

An ex-banker turned bishop has been the subject of criticism recently, as he was found to have been hiding a large wealth of money in offshore accounts. The bishop failed to disclose the resources, which have now been discovered by a judge who had been analysing his divorce settlements in the family court.

The ex-banker had recently been ordained into the Anglican Church and was said to be working as a bishop in another country after becoming a successful banker working in the US. He and his wife – who was a health service manager – had lived together in a house worth more than £800,000 in the south-west area of London.

Judge Richard Robinson found that the man’s finances had not been completely disclosed and he was “lamentable and not frank”. Details on the undisclosed funds were brought to light by Mr Justice Moor; who is from the Family Division of the High Court in London. Mr Justice Moor had been asked to analyse the undisclosed funds after Judge Robinson’s ruling and had outlined some of the findings.

The man had been ordered to transfer the London property to his wife as well as some of the other various properties he owned in other countries but Judge Robinson stated he had other “significant resources” not referring to the ones that were disclosed.

Hiding finances or assets during divorce proceedings is illegal and can cause many additional problems to a divorce settlement such as fines, imprisonment, and paying more into the divorce settlement than you originally thought.

A common myth is that being open and transparent during proceedings gives spouses the chance to grab any company assets that they want, however, this is not the case as no-one, including the courts, wants to see a business reduced to bankruptcy. If an obvious attempt at trying to hide company assets have been spotted by a lawyer, a judge will be less sympathetic towards business owners and company assets may be under more scrutiny.

Another way people avoid revealing assets is by setting up new businesses before separating. This will cause judges to be suspicious, even if there are legitimate tax reasons for doing so. Judges and lawyers will see this as trying to cover up assets. During divorce proceedings, you will be asked to complete a ‘Form E’, this is where you provide details of assets and finances such as bank statements, tax returns, mortgage statements, business accounts and valuation of assets, including pensions, property and evidence of financial liabilities. This information is exchanged with the ex-partner’s lawyer as part of the divorce process.

If you refuse to submit any documents, or if any important paperwork is absent, then lawyers have the right to believe that a “full and frank” disclosure has not been made; this results in the lawyer being able to apply for the judge to deal with the financial matter, which could result in a fine or even imprisonment.

Setting up a secret bank account is also not advised, as many family law professionals will be able to spot whether any money seems to be missing from accounts, which can result in them employing forensic accountants to track down any missing money, as well as the family courts having the power to question your financial advisor, bank manager or accountant.

The best advice is to always aim to be as transparent and cooperative as possible. Agreeing financial agreements between couples can often be challenging and require both parties to collaborate with each other and their lawyers in order to reach a conclusion they all agree on. This approach allows matters to be resolved without having to go to court, which can often be confrontational and distressing.

If you are considering separation or divorce from your partner then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team of experience family law professionals work with you to resolve family matters in an amicable and cooperative way and always strive to deliver the best outcome possible. For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation, contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or email info@kjsmith.co.uk .

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