A multi-millionaire businessman was behind the removal of more than 50 olive trees from land in Cyprus he had been ordered to hand to his estranged wife, a judge has decided.
Mrs Justice Roberts concluded that Christakis Christoforou removed the trees, which were about 50 years old, to “spite” Ibtissam Ali Christoforou.
She said more than 200 trees remained and estimated that more than £40,000 would need to be spent to bring the land back to its “original condition”.
The judge analysed the dispute at a recent hearing in the Family Division of the High Court, at the Royal Courts of Justice, in London, and has outlined her conclusions in a written ruling published online.
Another judge had analysed arguments over the division of a £50 million fortune in London three years ago and said Mrs Christoforou should get the land in Cyprus.
Mrs Justice Roberts said Mr Christoforou, who had lived for many years with his family in Cyprus, had fought “tooth and nail” to keep the land.
She said Mrs Christoforou had discovered that olive trees were missing and taken legal action.
The judge said she had examined evidence which included drone footage and Google imagery.
“I am entirely satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, (Mr Christoforou) was responsible for the removal of (Mrs Christoforou’s) trees prior to the formal transfer to her of the plots of land on which they previously stood,” she said in her ruling.
“If he did not physically assist in the removal of the trees, I am satisfied that he gave instructions to a team of contractors.”
She added: “It was, in my judgment, a substantial operation which was motivated by a desire not only to preserve what he could from land which he had fought tooth and nail to preserve in the context of the ongoing matrimonial proceedings: it was also, as I find, an act of pure spite against (Mrs Christoforou).”
Mrs Justice Roberts heard that Mr and Mrs Christoforou, who are both aged over 60, were married for more than 30 years.
Mr Christoforou and Mrs Christoforou, who was born in Lebanon, had a home in London when married.