Banker’s lawyer wife demands a share of his £300,000 Panama holiday home after their divorce but he insists it was a gift to his elderly mother
- Melanie Panzone is locked in a legal battle over an apartment in Rio Mar, Panama
- The lawyer is fighting over the flat with 73-year-old mother-in-law Anne Read
- Ms Read claims her son, Ms Panzone’s husband, bought the apartment for her
Melanie Panzone (pictured) is locked in another legal battle following her split from Jonathan Read
A high-flying lawyer is battling with her husband’s elderly mother over ownership of a luxury £300,000 holiday pad in the tropics.
Melanie Panzone, 48, married wealthy banker Jonathan Peter Read, 45, in 2002, but they split in 2014 after raising two children, filing for divorce in 2016.
Ms Panzone and her ex, who a judge said earned about £1million a year, previously clashed in court over their finances after their break-up.
The finance specialist, who works for the City branch of Simmons and Simmons, is now battling former mother-in-law, Anne Read, over a luxury Panama apartment.
The 73-year-old says the apartment, which she owns through a company, is hers alone.
She claims her son bought the home for her in ‘gratitude for her support when he was growing up’.
But Ms Panzone claims the property in Rio Mar is owned beneficially by her ex.
Last year, a judge ruled that the £300,000 apartment should be put into the pot of marital assets to be divided, after finding that Mr Read is the ‘sole beneficial owner of the Panama property’.
But his mum is now asking the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision and hand the apartment back to her.
Pictured: The luxury resort where the apartment is located in Panama. The flat is at the centre of a legal battle in the Court of Appeals
The apartment sits in this luxury resort and Ms Panzone is battling her mother-in-law for the flat in court today
The court heard that Ms Panzone and her south African ex were married in the UK and spent their entire married life here, living in rented accommodation in south London.
She is former legal director at Eversheds Sutherland and currently works as a solicitor in the field of financial regulation.
Anne Read (pictured) says that her son bought the apartment as a thank-you for caring for him
Mrs Justice Parker in a hearing last year said the former couple were both ‘highly intelligent and competent individuals’.
The husband had claimed to have been ‘earning extremely well, with an income probably gross of around £1million’ at the time the property was bought in 2007, she said.
Mr Read paid for the apartment with his own money, but claims he then ‘gifted it’ to his mother.
Mrs Justice Parker said that the husband had explained he was ‘earning extremely well…(and) wanted to provide a holiday home for his mother in gratitude for her support of him when he was growing up’.
But she went on to uphold another judge’s earlier decision that Mr Read had in reality remained the sole beneficial owner of the flat.
Michael Horton, for Mrs Read, today asked Lady Justice King, Lord Justice Moylan and Lord Justice Leggatt to hand the apartment back to the pensioner.
Mrs Justice Parker had refused Mrs Read’s appeal against an earlier finding by District Judge Mark Robinson in 2017 in which he ruled that Mr Read owned the flat.
Mr Horton told the Appeal Court that ‘the trial before the district judge miscarried,’ claiming that he had ‘decided the case on a basis which had never been the subject of evidence or submissions’.
The luxury resort in Rio Mar is pictured as Ms Panzone fights over ownership of the property in the Court of Appeal
‘Mrs Read also says that the district judge’s fact-finding was tainted,’ he said, adding that ‘his order and judgment show a degree of confusion’.
‘Mrs Justice Parker was wrong to dismiss Mrs Read’s appeal against the order of the district judge,’ he concluded.
Pictured: Hammocks beside the swimming pool outside the apartment, which is at the centre of the legal row
But Christopher Hames, for Ms Panzone, said that both the judges who previously heard the case had focused on the correct issues.
‘The main target of my client was to show that the husband was the true financial beneficial owner of the Panamanian property,’ he said.
The lawyer is battling in court with her 73-year-old former mother-in-law over a luxury apartment in Rio Mar (pictured, the luxury resort)
‘This property was the husband’s, is the husband’s, and should be treated as the husband’s. That is how Mrs Justice Parker analysed the district judge’s findings.
‘I respectfully submit she was absolutely right. The fundamental finding was that this was the husband’s property.’