Divorcing husband ordered to disclose financial documents

A divorcing husband has been ordered to disclose documents relating to his financial affairs, despite claiming that doing so could lead to his arrest.

The case involved a businessman whose wife believed he had an interest in a German company that he was refusing to disclose.

Two months after the wife had started divorce proceedings, she discovered a password protected flash drive in a safety-deposit box in Zurich. 

Her lawyers in Germany accessed the flash drive with a password written on the envelope containing the drive and discovered information about the husband's financial situation.

The drive was given to the husband’s solicitors, after the German solicitors had made a copy of its contents.

The husband was ordered to disclose the information held on the drive. He refused, arguing that doing so would put him in breach of German civil and criminal law.

He was the managing director of his friend’s private-equity company and the documents were confidential. Disclosing the documents would be breach of his contract of employment.

He said he could lose his job and the company could claim damages against him. He could also face criminal charges relating to Germany’s unfair competition laws.

The court ruled in favour of the wife. The judge felt the husband was unlikely to face prosecution or civil sanction in Germany. His friend was unlikely to sack him, sue him or prosecute him.

The husband’s argument amounted to an improper filibuster, made in bad faith.

The court ruled that the information should be made available through the copy of the flash drive that had been retained by the wife's German lawyers as the husband would be likely to create more spurious obstacles if disclosure of the documents were to be ordered.

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