Monday, 6 December 2021

Virgin’s space ticket dominates British Indian couple’s divorce battle


LONDON: An Indian-origin couple in the UK are caught up in a divorce battle which includes a 160,000-pound ticket on the futuristic first commercial flight into space on British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s famed Virgin Galactic. Meera Manek is taking her husband, Ashish Thakkar, to the UK High Court next week to dispute his claims that his assets are worth just 445,532 pounds. The 33-year-old food writer and blogger insists that Thakkar is in fact a billionaire. “The Virgin Galactic flight will be discussed in court. It is an asset Ashish still holds and will be considered as part of the investigation into his total wealth. Meera will demand the cost of the ticket be counted in his assets. She could demand he cashes it in,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying. Thakkar was among the first to sign up for Branson’s dream project of launching the first commercial flight into space. The full amount of the tickets are paid up front but the tickets on Virgin Galactic are fully refundable up until the date of the flight.

The UK High Court will now decide over the course of a five-day hearing beginning on Monday what Thakkar’s assets are worth and a further trial will then determine how much Manek should receive as part of the divorce settlement. Thakkar is a Dubai-based businessman who runs the Mara Group and was born in the city of Leicester in the UK. His family were among the thousands of East African Indians who came to the UK after being deported by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1970s. The 35-year-old married Manek in 2008 but the couple separated in 2013. His soon-to-be ex-wife claims her estranged husband is the beneficiary of a complex series of companies held offshore. But he has told the High Court that the beneficiaries of the Mara Group – an IT, banking and property group – were his mother and sister. ‘The Sunday Times Rich List’ had estimated Thakkar’s wealth at 500 million pounds in 2015 but he was missing from the list in 2016.

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