Many millionaires who want to break up prevent their wives from knowing the details of the family’s financial life and resort to lies, fraud and even physical violence. Discover cases pending in the Brazilian Courts.
Heads up: This report contains descriptions of scenes of domestic violence that can be disturbing.
When Joana*, married businessman Carlos*, in the early 2000s, he was the owner of a small business. The two were together for 18 years and, over that time, the company grew dramatically.
Little by little, the couple’s lifestyle? who was already upper middle class? it was becoming luxurious. But Joan had no idea the size of her husband’s fortune until they parted? or rather, until she realizes that she was cheated in the divorce process.
Joana, now 50 years old, dedicated her entire life to her family and her husband and did not want to separate. She underwent several fertilizations to get pregnant with the couple’s son, now a teenager.
Carlos filed for divorce for the first time in 2017, but as Joana didn’t want to separate, the couple ended up staying together for another year. In 2018, he convinced her that it would be better to make a deal and they parted ways in 2019.
“He said that she would never miss anything, that he would leave the couple’s son and she in a good situation. He made an agreement for her to keep an apartment for R$ 5 million and R$ 30 million in investments”, says Anderson Albuquerque, Joan’s attorney.
Not knowing exactly what her husband’s real estate was? and therefore of the couple, since they were married with common property? Joana accepted the agreement.
It was only when she saw two IPOs of Carlos’ company and his name on the list of Brazil’s billionaires that she realized she had been deceived. It was then that he sought out Albuquerque and discovered that the total value of the estate was actually in the billions of reais.
“In large separations – with values above R$ 10 million – divorce proceedings are no longer a family law and become a matter of financial fraud and tax law”, says Albuquerque, who specialized in tax and business law before starting the coordinate your office’s family law department.
In Joana’s case, Carlos had simply omitted the value of the property at the time of the separation. “He did not present his equity interest in several companies”, says Albuquerque.
Last month, Joana got a court decision that guaranteed her right to have access to all the company’s accounting documents for the past 18 years.
With the exact value of the assets in Joana’s hands, said the judge in the case, can the two parties try to reach an agreement? if not, the documents will be essential in a future process on the sharing of goods.
“As in this case, it is often a problem that goes beyond the family. Fraud between husband and wife can have consequences for the company as a whole,” says Albuquerque.
Carlos’ defense has not yet commented on the case.
hiding the heritage
Unlike the vast majority of family law offices, Albuquerque only accepts cases from wives and daughters, never from husbands.
“In this area, we only advocate for women. It helps to maintain coherence, because if you support something for one side (of the wife) in a case and then argue the opposite in another case (of the husband), you mischaracterize your own argument” , explains the lawyer.
According to Albuquerque, in most of the big divorce cases he handles, the husbands’ main strategy for hiding assets is simply not to present the documents to the women and their lawyers.
“Many women, even though they have a luxury life, don’t know details about the family’s financial life, don’t know or can’t prove their living costs and don’t know their rights,” he says, adding that many frauds go unnoticed by family law lawyers who don’t understand the finances so well.
In addition, he says, many husbands maintain control of their wives in abusive relationships and they are afraid to even seek a lawyer to understand what their rights are.
“Just her following a family law lawyer on social media is cause for contention. Her husband says she doesn’t trust her, asks her if she wants to separate. I get hundreds of messages a day from women saying they can’t follow me because if the husband finds out, it’s going to be a problem,” says Albuquerque.
Contractual changes and physical violence
The lawyer explains that, although omitting data is the main strategy, it is not the only one. There are cases where there is even the use of forged documents and even physical violence involved.
That’s what happened in the divorce between Lígia* and João*, businessmen from the southern region of Brazil who separated this year.
The two met in 2009. The two started together a business that over the years has grown into a large business group.
The two were married for 12 years and had a daughter. When João wanted to separate, the couple’s assets were worth around R$500 million, says Albuquerque.
In this case, Lígia knew of her rights, but was taken by surprise by her husband’s attempted coup.
In December 2020, João made a contractual change making a corporate change through a digital certificate ? he passed the companies on to his mother’s name, without telling his wife. But her physical signature was missing for the change to take place.
In April of this year, when the couple no longer lived together, after a get-together event at the companies’ headquarters, he forced her to sign several documents, including the contract with a corporate change, using violence.
João was accompanying Lígia and the couple’s daughter to the car when the violence broke out. “He grabbed my neck and left me speechless, preventing me from calling for help. Then he threw me over the vehicle,” she says.
Lígia managed to get into the case to try to protect herself, but João opened the door, took her out of the car and threw her against the wall. Did several people see the scene? including the couple’s little daughter.
On the same day, Lígia went to the police station to file a police report. Due to the violence, the case reached the Public Ministry and João faces a criminal case.
In addition, Lígia went to court asking for recognition of the nullity of the contractual amendment, compensation for moral damages and other demands to protect her assets.
“The fraud was very clear because he made a mistake. The contractual change had been made in 2020, but when he forced her to sign it, the contract was dated this year,” says Albuquerque, who advocates for Lígia in the process.
In the action, João denies any aggression and claims that his ex-wife signed the contract willingly.
Emptying of assets
There are cases where husbands empty their assets so that their wives do not have access to the values they are entitled to.
Now 50 years old, Clara* has been trying to obtain for 12 years the amount that was agreed with her ex-husband Rodrigo* when they separated. The two met in 1995 and stayed together for nearly 15 years.
When they divorced, the two made a property-sharing agreement in which she would keep the value of R$ 1 million, but Rodrigo never transferred the value to his ex-wife.
Clara spent years trying to obtain payment, but had difficulty because Rodrigo had completely emptied his assets, preventing the court from expropriating his assets.
Even before they split, in 2007, he sold his equity stake in large foreign exchange companies to a bank. The value of the trading disclosed was around U$ 40 million (R$ 81.5 million reais, with exchange rates in August 2007)
According to the Court, the amount owed by him to Clara today is R$ 30 million? considering the amount of the agreement that was not paid with interest and monetary correction plus the alimony that he owes to the couple’s daughters.
Rodrigo denies irregularities, but no longer has the right to appeal in court? The deadlines for contesting the alimony actions have passed and there is no possibility of appealing the value of the agreement legally made by the couple.
Now a client of Albuquerque, Clara filed a request for her ex-husband’s debt to be redirected to the bank that absorbed her shareholdings in the foreign exchange companies.
“It’s yet another example of how a marital issue can have effects beyond the family,” says Albuquerque. “Today I even have investors who seek advice to assess the property sharing regime of partners to better understand the risks of investing in certain companies.”
*The names of the named people have been changed to protect their identities