Ex-wife of Putin’s judo sparring partner faces prison over divorce legal fees

The ex-wife of Vladimir Putin’s judo sparring partner faces time in prison after she refused to pay her divorce lawyers and failed to turn up at court. 

Ballet instructor Natalia Rotenberg has spent years battling in the courts with former partner Arkady Rotenberg, a sanctioned oligarch and close friend of Russian president Mr Putin, over a £27m Surrey mansion the couple previously shared. 

But she is now embroiled in a row with Candey, the City law firm that previously represented her in her legal tussle, after failing to pay her lawyers and hiring new representatives. 

Candey is pursuing her for £11,500 in costs, a judge heard at London’s High Court on Thursday. 

James Taylor, a pupil barrister at Candey, told Master Amanda Stevens, the presiding judge, that Ms Rotenberg had ignored letters, emails and WhatsApp messages demanding that she turn up at court for questioning regarding her assets.

Mr Taylor said she had “flouted” multiple court orders and “failed to engage in any way” with attempts to contact her. 

After Candey was previously awarded costs, Ms Rotenberg had previously failed to turn up to examinations in court in November and March, prompting Mr Justice Ritchie to hand her a 21-day prison sentence. It was suspended on condition she appeared at court on Thursday, which she also failed to do.

As a result, Master Stevens awarded further costs to Candey and ordered that a warrant for her arrest be issued. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured with judo partner Arkady Rotenberg

It comes after Ms Rotenberg last year had her £8.7m London flat repossessed after failing to make mortgage payments. 

The former ballet teacher, who started a clothing business after moving to Britain, has been battling her husband for the past seven years for control of their formerly shared £27m mansion at Upper Ribsden, Windlesham, Surrey.

The property boasts a 42ft swimming pool, a games suite, a cinema, a state-of-the-art catering unit and wine cellar, staff quarters and an underground garage for up to six limousines.

Candey represented Ms Rotenberg throughout the previous proceedings. 

In 2019, a divorce judge in the UK High Court ruled that Mr Rotenberg should transfer the 27,000 sq ft mansion, set in six acres of sculpted grounds, to his ex-wife.

But in 2021 three Court of Appeal judges overturned the order, saying it had not been proved that the house was Mr Rotenberg’s to give, as it is owned by an offshore company. That case is set for a full rehearing to decide who really owns the house.

As the fight over the mansion raged, Ms Rotenberg moved to buy another luxury property in her own name, an apartment in Kings Gate Walk, Westminster.

But she had the flat taken away after failing to make a single repayment on her mortgage debt, which stood at over £1.6m. 

Ms Rotenberg could not be reached for comment on Friday. 

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