Wednesday 22 November 2017

Businessman forced to give £650k house to Lithuanian girlfriend he met while she was working as cleaner

Plumbing mogul's former lover claimed she had right to their second home in the village of Sawbridgeworth because she claimed it was a 'gift' to her

Greta Cerniauskaite
Greta Cerniauskaite

A businessman has been forced to give a £650,000 house to his Lithuanian ex-girlfriend, whom he met while she was working as a National Gallery cleaner, as she claimed it was a "gift".

Plumbing mogul John Hoggins, 62, claimed Greta Cerniauskaite, 47, nagged him to buy her a house and "the contents of most of the shops in Bond Street".

He bought her a £160,000 Bentley, funded a £100,000 fashion and jewellery shopping spree and paid for £8,000 of monogrammed sheets and towels from Milan.

They enjoyed properties in Hertfordshire, Spain and Florida while also holidaying in Alaska, Cuba, Thailand and Mauritius. Out of his plumbing empire, Mr Hoggins paid himself nearly £150,000-a-year, but also gave her a salary of up to £93,000 for a job with no work.

But when they finally split after a nine-year relationship, Miss Cerniauskaite - who is now a businesswoman and model - claimed she had a right to their £650,000 second home in the village of Sawbridgeworth, in Hertfordshire.

Contesting her claim to the house, Mr Hoggins said he had paid the £100,000 deposit when it was bought in 2009 and then all costs and mortgage payments.

But after a hearing at the First-Tier Tribunal in London, a judge has now ruled that the property is - and always was - Miss Cerniauskaite's alone.

The money paid by Mr Hoggins was a "gift" by a "generous" man who had since got it in his head that she was out to get his money, said Judge Ann McAllister.

"There is no doubt that John was extremely generous in these years and that considerable sums of money passed through his hands," she said.

"It is clear from all the evidence I have heard and read that John now feels very bitter towards Greta and has convinced himself that, from the outset, her intentions were to get what she could out of the relationship financially.

"His evidence is that the relationship had begun to deteriorate badly from 2007 onwards and that he only stayed with Greta because his youngest son adored her.

"But there is no dispute but that Greta was trying to become pregnant in the years 2005 to 2011. What is also clear and is amply demonstrated by the paperwork I have seen is that he was a remarkably generous, some might say impulsive man, whose own life was complex and not always easy."

She added: "It was, by any reckoning, and for those years, a life of ease and wealth."

The tribunal heard the couple met in 2004, when Mr Hoggins was nearing the end of his first marriage, while Miss Cerniauskaite had been married twice before.

Mr Hoggins ran a number of plumbing and heating businesses, employing more than 50 people and generating "substantial profits".

They lived in Hoddesdon and never actually moved into the disputed property in Sawbridgeworth, the hearing was told.

Mr Hoggins claimed she refused to move in because there was not enough wardrobe space, while she said they had only ever intended it as a weekend home.

The home was put in her name, but Mr Hoggins claimed that was only in order to get a mortgage more easily, because he already had debts.

But the judge ruled: "I accept Greta's evidence and in particular that John reassured her that, whatever happened, she would have the property.

"Although she did not work for his company, I accept that she did a great deal to make his life easier and to help with his children.

"I do not doubt too that, whatever the cause of the breakdown of the relationship, the relationship, which lasted nine years, was not as unhappy as John is now at pains to portray it.

"In my judgment, it is clear from all the evidence that John intended that Greta should own the property legally and beneficially."

She added: "John spent a great deal of money on Greta over the years. If he could spend £100,000 on what might be described as fripperies, there is no reason to think that a further £100,000 by way of a deposit and further money to pay the mortgage should be put in a different category."

The couple eventually split in 2013 and Mr Hoggins has since remarried.

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