Tracey Hejailan-Amon, a Manhattan socialite, filed a lawsuit against her husband, millionaire Swiss entrepreneur Maurice Alain Amon, after claiming he hid an art collection valued at $25 million before filing for divorce.
Hejailan-Amon, who was in Europe when Amon filed for divorce, stated that she collected the artwork – between 17 and 20 pieces – during the couple’s marriage. The collection included pieces by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, and other artists.
In her lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, she described her husband’s removal of the artwork from their $16 million Manhattan apartment as “illegal and unlawful,” claiming the artwork is marital property. Hejailan-Amon’s lawsuit states the couple did not sign a prenuptial agreement.
According to attorney Sarah B. Hechtman – who practices practices matrimonial and family law at Jones Morrison, LLP* in Westchester NY – Amon did not have the right to take the artwork or attempt to sell it. “In New York, the law provides that neither spouse may transfer or sell or otherwise disturb any assets pending resolution of the matrimonial case,” she explained. “During the litigation (or settlement negotiations) of the matter, it will need to be determined what is marital property and thus subject to equitable distribution, and what is separate property.”
Peter Bronstein, a lawyer for Amon’s private company, has claimed that his client has full ownership of the artwork and that it is not marital property, adding that Hejailan-Amon was aware of Amon’s plan to remove the art from their apartment.
“If the art was purchased with marital or joint assets, then the court would find (or the parties would agree) that it is marital property and would divide it between the parties ‘equitably’ or fairly,” said Hechtman.
According to Hejailan-Amon, Amon had the artwork taken to a Queen’s store facility in October before filing for divorce in Monaco – where there’s no legal concept of shared property. In the lawsuit, she stated her husband had already put one painting up for auction. Amon claims to have residency in Monaco; however, Hejailan-Amon says the couple never lived in the country.
Hejailan-Amon, 47, and Amon, 64, married in Hong Kong in 2008. Since then, they have lived in various cities around the world. According to her lawyer, Aaron Richard Golub, Hejailan-Amon was not aware Amon was planning a divorce. “She was in Europe and she didn’t even know what was going on. She thought she was happily married,” Golub told the New York Post.
This isn’t Amon’s first conflict over marital property. Amon, who owns a security company, was previously married to Roberta Amon – whom he divorced in 2005. His ex-wife sued him for her share of marital money, according to New York Daily News.
UPDATE (Dec. 9, 2015): Since filing for divorce, Amon is still fighting to have his divorce settled in Monaco. In a recent filing in Manhattan, he revealed photos of Hejailan-Amon’s multiple walk-in closets, which include an extensive collection of shoes, purses, and clothes. He is arguing that this evidence shows that his estranged wife lives in Monaco.
Under Monaco law, Hejailan-Amon will not be able to claim any art pieces since there is no concept of shared marital property. In New York, she would be entitled to a portion of the artwork. The parties will be making their next court appearance in Manhattan Supreme Court on Dec.10, 2015.
UPDATE (January 2018): * Sarah B. Hechtman now practices matrimonial and family law at Miller Law Group in Westchester County, NY.