UPDATE 3:10 p.m. When Sarah Pursglove of Boca Raton realized her husband was leaving her, she turned to a West Palm Beach law firm to track down his enormous wealth, according to a story this week in The New York Times.
What the law firm of Jeffrey D. Fisher discovered was further evidence of how the wealthy offshore wealth through shell companies in foreign countries.
Not only do wives like Pursglove get the shaft, but so do U.S. taxpayers.
Fisher and his firm – Fisher Bendeck & Potter – walks the line of divorce and white-collar litigation, representing the discarded wives of rich men with complex business concerns. When it comes to ugly divorces of the rich and powerful in Palm Beach County, Fisher is often right in the middle.
“The beauty of high-end divorce law it is that it is usually handled on an expedited basis,” Fisher told the New York Times. “If you’re a person like me, who doesn’t want a five-year-long case, there’s nothing better.”
His firm’s website states “Most of Mr. Fisher’s clients remain “stealth,” but the media has covered a number of significant cases. He represented professional golfer Greg Norman and the wives divorcing the head of Gulf Keystone Petroleum Todd Kozel and oil tycoon William I. Koch, among many other notables.
Now The New York Times has spun an incredibly complex legal tale of his representation of Pursglove with Fisher as the star.
“When the wall of secrecy is breached, the distinction between upright global citizen and criminal can quickly grow indistinct,” according to the story.
The target of Fisher’s exploration was a Finnish entrepreneur named Robert Oesterlund. The businessman swore in a Canadian court that his total net worth totaled just a few million dollars despite the fact that he had two yachts, a $30 million Penthouse and homes in Canada and South Florida — a $5.7 million mansion in Boca Raton.
Oesterlund, himself, likes to jet set around the world and stay on one of his yachts in an effort to avoid paying taxes. Statements found by his accountants put Oesterlund’s worth at least $300 million.
Court records show Oesterlund — with the help of well-known Florida accounting firm Daszkal Bolton — was trying to structure his businesses to insulate himself from paying taxes and future litigation, the Times reported.
“I want to have in writing a statement,” he wrote to his lawyers in 2011, “that I can no longer be subject to Florida or U.S. law.” Take every step necessary, he added, to “remove myself from the country of Evil.”
He is also no stranger to the Florida Attorney General Office, which investigated several of his business before suing his company Xacti in 2013. Oesterlund settled for $500,000.
His wife, Pursglove, helped him run his businesses — at one time as many as 40 internet companies — after they married in 1998. But he told her on Christmas Eve 2012 he wanted a divorce. Later, he said if she was in Russia she would get only 10 percent of their wealth by law and in Dubai she would be entitled to nothing.
When the Internal Revenue Service couldn’t help her, Pursglove relied on Fisher and his highly creative lawyers at his firm. They spent millions of their own breaching the defenses of the offshore financial world.
A big win was when Fisher got Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen to prohibit Oesterlund from selling, merging or borrowing against any of his assets.
The lawyer discovered Oesterlund had created a company Omega Partners in the Bahamas that siphoned off most of the wealth from his holding company for his businesses. Omega had one employee: Oesterlund.
At one point, the concern was that Oesterlund would go into hiding to keep his wife from key documents that showed a violation of Gillen’s order. The judge threatened him with criminal contempt.
In court, Pursglove and her legal team accused the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff of helping Oesterlund hide his wealth in the Caribbean through a fraudulent scheme.
Court filings now suggest a settlement — though Fisher and Oesterlund’s remaining lawyers said they were barred from discussing one.
To read the whole New York Times story click here.