Saturday, March 31, 2012

Divorcee Sues to Reclaim £6.4m Given to Internet Lover

By Amanda Perthen

(U.K.) A multi-millionaire divorcee has launched a High Court battle to reclaim £6.4 million from a lover she met through the internet.

Catherine Wood, 50, who amassed her fortune through property deals, met Shlomo Add via an online dating agency after she split from her husband, Jean Francois Cornet De Chansard.

But the romance turned sour after lawyer Mr Add persuaded Ms Wood to hand over millions of pounds during their four-year relationship, the High Court in London heard. The judge agreed to freeze Mr Add’s assets so that he could not dispose of them before the case came to trial. But Mr Add, 53, insists a large portion of the money was an ‘outright gift’ and is contesting the claims. The court heard that Mr Add came up with a number of plausible stories as to why he needed cash from her.

On one occasion he telephoned from Israel asking for £1.1 million in cash, saying he needed it for bail as he was in custody facing tax evasion charges. Ms Wood wired him the cash so he could be released. On another occasion, the court was told, Mr Add bought a Ferrari using assets belonging to Ms Wood.

Ms Wood, who made her money buying and selling properties through the family business, fought back tears as she said: ‘It’s been so painful, I can’t talk about it.’ The couple’s romance started in 2007 after Mr Add had split from his wife, Ruth, a former dancer. Despite Mr Add making regular trips to Israel, he and Ms Wood met regularly.

Mr Add lived in a £275,000 semi-detached house on an estate near East Grinstead, West Sussex. Ms Wood, who has two children – James, 17, and Natasha, 16, with Mr Cornet De Chansard – had a five-bedroom property worth £2.3 million in Golders Green, North London. But by the time the relationship had ended, Mr Add had bought a £550,000 house on a private road just a few miles from his previous home, which he still owns.

Last week, a blue Maserati saloon and a grey four-wheel-drive vehicle were parked on the driveway. Mr Add is currently staying at his £1.2 million waterfront apartment just outside Tel Aviv. A neighbour said: ‘The people who buy property here are not just any people. ‘They are wealthy bankers, Russian oligarchs, French millionaires and some of Israel’s best known figures in the underworld.’

Mr Add declined to comment on the court case, adding that his daughter Hila, who is in the Israeli Defence Force, was staying with him and he had no time to spare.

After granting permission for Mr Add’s assets to be frozen, Judge David Cook said at the High Court: ‘Her [Ms Wood’s] allegations, if correct, show a course of conduct over a number of years in which he [Mr Add] has been able to obtain assets of a wealthy woman under a series of pretexts and promises which he has not kept.’

The case continues.

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