Million dollar footballer with no assets?

You may have seen the news about the separation of Achraf Hakimi, professional football player for the Moroccan national team and Paris Saint-Germain with a net worth of around $24 million, and his wife, Hiba Abouk, a Spanish actress. The pair are said to have been dating since 2018, before marrying in France in 2020.  They have two sons together.

Individuals in the public eye divorcing is not newsworthy in and of itself.  What is drawing attention in this instance is the way in which Hakimi has structured his finances and the reported disparity in the spouses’ respective proposed outcomes.  It is rumoured that Abouk is seeking $11m whilst Hakimi believes that $2.2m is the right outcome.  Most noteworthy is that Hakimi has allegedly transferred ownership of his earnings to his mother, who is also said to be holding assets (including properties) in her name.  Hakimi is said to keep only 20% of his paychecks and transfers the remaining 80% to his mother.

Although this is playing out in France, it is interesting to consider what might happen if it were in this jurisdiction.

Unlike France and other civil-law jurisdictions, England does not have property regimes that spouses can elect to govern the treatment of their financial assets in the event of a divorce, although a prenuptial (or postnuptial) agreement can be used to provide a similar structure in the event of a divorce.

The English Courts are still determining cases based on legislation from 1973, as developed in subsequent case law.  The starting point is an equal division of the assets acquired during the marriage (including prior cohabitation, moving seamlessly into marriage).  That is particularly significant for Achraf and Hiba, as Hiba claims that, before their relationship, she was the more-established and Hakimi’s highest-earning years fell during their time together.

But what about the quantification of the ‘marital’ assets to be divided?  Abouk has apparently filed a lawsuit against Hakimi for ‘fraud and mismanagement of their martial assets’ in connection with his decision to transfer the bulk of the wealth he created during the marriage to his mother.  In England, parties are subject to comprehensive obligations to provide full and frank disclosure.  Hakimi would be expected to provide ‘chapter and verse’ about the transfer of significant wealth to his mother.  The English Court has the power to set-aside certain transactions that are intended to defeat a spouses’ claims, or to notionally ‘add-back’ assets (i.e. to treat the spouse as still owning or having access to such assets).

It remains to be seen how this develops, but Abouk may be wishing that she was able to bring her claim in England, often described (particularly by more ‘sensational’ media outlets) as the ‘divorce capital of the world’.

Written by David Carver from Charles Russell Speechlys

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