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Judge says Canucks co-owner can keep wine in pre-trial divorce hearing

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 7:15 PM / News

The Canadian Press

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Judge says Canucks co-owner can keep wine in pre-trial divorce hearing

VANCOUVER - The co-owner of the Vancouver Canucks won't be forced — for now — to sell an extensive wine collection valued at $789,000 to cover the legal fees of his estranged wife.

The decision was one of five made by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Smith following a pre-trial divorce hearing between Francesco Aquilini and Taliah Aquilini.

The couple was married in 1994, separated in January 2011 and will go to trial in September, but Taliah Aquilini had argued the wine collection is a family asset and she needed the money to pay legal fees, including expert evidence.

"Nothing in the claimant's affidavit evidence suggests that she will be unable to obtain the necessary expert evidence without an advance payment," said Smith in his decision released Thursday.

"Even if she could establish the need for an advance payment, there is no authority for requiring that such a payment be funded by sale of a specific asset."

The wine collection includes 1,930 bottles and has been appraised at US$789,000, although Smith's ruling states Taliah Aquilini has received a sales offer of $615,00.

The wine is kept in the family's matrimonial home, inhabited by the battling couple's four children and Taliah Aquilini.

Smith also denied Taliah Aquilini any continued use of vacation properties, hockey tickets and access to a private suit at Rogers Arena, saying he could find no basis on which he could order their interim use.

And he ruled Francesco Aquilini should not be forced to testify about any alleged adultery during pre-trial hearings, known as discovery, or even during the trial itself.

"As the evidence will not be admissible at trial for the purpose of divorce and it has not been shown to be related to any other 'matter in question,' the respondent should not (be) compelled to answer those questions on discovery," said Smith.

Smith did order Francesco Aquilini to provide his former wife with a monthly list of significant transactions by the family business, the Aquilini Investment Group Limited Partnership.

Taliah Aquilini had applied for a restraining order that would have prevented her former husband from disposing of or tying up assets in which he maintained an indirect interest.

Smith said he'd also listen to arguments on whether Francesco Aquilini should submit additional documents during the legal proceedings.

Smith said Francesco Aquilini has been basing part of his argument on a "purported marriage agreement," in which Taliah Aquilini allegedly waived any claim to some of the family assets currently in question.

Smith said the effect and validity of that agreement, which he has not yet dealt with, will become an issue during the trial.

The court has made no order for interim child support because Smith said Francesco Aquilini has been making monthly deposits into a joint bank account.

With his parents and two brothers, Francesco Aquilini is a partner in the Aquilini Investment Group, a company that counts Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena as holdings.

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