Businessman loses divorce cash bid

Published: Tuesday 7th July 2015 by The News Editor

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A Nigerian businessman has lost the latest stage of one of the most high-profile divorce cash fights seen in England.

Michael Prest is facing jail as a result of a High Court judge ruling that he had failed to pay more than £360,000 he owed to his ex-wife Yasmin Prest.

Lawyers for Mr Prest had asked the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision – made by Mr Justice Moylan following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London in July 2014.

But three appeal judges, who analysed argument from legal teams representing Mr and Ms Prest at a hearing in London in March, today dismissed his appeal.

Mr Justice Moylan had imposed a four-week jail term after concluding that Mr Prest had wilfully refused or neglected to hand money to Ms Prest in breach of a court order.

He had concluded that Mr Prest had the means to pay what he owed and the judge suspended the jail term for three months in the hope that Mr Prest would pay up.

Mr Prest, who was due to be jailed in late October, subsequently launched an appeal and won a stay of execution.

Lord Justice McFarlane, the most senior member of a three-judge appeal panel, today said Mr Prest would now have until late September to pay.

He said Mr Prest would not be committed to prison if he handed over £360,200 by September 28.

Today’s appeal court ruling was the latest stage in a long-running fight between the Prests – who are both in their 50s, were married for 18 years and have four children – which has been analysed by the Supreme Court.

In 2011, Mr Justice Moylan had been told that Mr Prest was a wealthy oil trader.

The judge assessed Mr Prest’s net assets at £37.5 million and he ordered Mr Prest make a lump sum payment of £17.5 million and maintenance payments which added up to nearly £300,000 a year.

In July 2014, Ms Prest complained that Mr Prest had not complied, said she was owed hundreds of thousands of pounds in maintenance and asked for him to be committed to jail for contempt of court.

Judges have heard that the couple, who married in 1993 and divorced in 2011, had spent most of their time in London when together, had properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean and had lived to a ”very high standard”.

In 2011, Mr Justice Moylan had concluded that Mr Prest had made ”various attempts” to conceal the extent of assets and the judge said he had made a wealth assessment ”doing the best he could” on the material available.

Properties held in the name of companies Mr Prest had controlled have been a central issue in the cash fight.

Mr Justice Moylan initially ordered Mr Prest to transfer properties held in the names of companies he controlled.

The Court of Appeal disagreed and said Mr Prest did not have to hand property to Ms Prest.

But the Supreme Court – the highest court in the UK – ruled in Ms Prest’s favour at a hearing in London in June 2013 and judges have been told that properties have been transferred to Ms Prest.

Lord Justice McFarlane today said Mr Prest could still ask the Supreme Court – the highest in the UK – to consider the case.

He said if Mr Prest did that there could be another stay of execution.

Neither Mr nor Ms Prest were in court in London when Lord Justice McFarlane delivered the ruling.

Published: Tuesday 7th July 2015 by The News Editor

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